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Death Valley wildflowers at their peak

April 19, 2011

The beautiful Scalloped Phacelia, also known as Scorpionweed, is coloring some hillsides in Death Valley purple. The wildflowers are at their peak for the year in and around the national park. Photo courtesy desertusa.com

The 2011 wildflower season is at its peak in Death Valley and Southern Inyo. Reports are that this is not the most prolific year for petals and color, but the flowers are out and they’re going fast.
Chief of Interpretation for Death Valley National Park Terry Baldino reported at the end of March that the flowers are small but abundant.
“If people want to see the flowers this year they’re going to have to get out of the car and look around,” Baldino said.
He explained that this year’s precipitation, which is the key ingredient for blooms, has been sporadic, thus the plants are stunted. December 2010 was one of the wettest months on record but then there was not a drop of rain for January 2011. Baldino added that the flowers come out every year, but without lots of rain the plants and flower stalks simply do not get very tall and stay close to the ground.
The website desertusa.com “explores the Southwest” and has a “wildflower meter” on its site with member updates from blooming hot spots in Arizona, Texas, California, Utah and Nevada. Desertusa.com is giving the Death Valley blooms a 2 to 3 on a scale of one to 10.
A report from April 5 states that, “There are not a lot of flowers, but there were spots with dense patches, mostly just on the edges of the dirt roads and in some washes. Much of the park was very green though.”
The Death Valley National Park website is reporting as of March 15, “Wildflowers in the area around Ashford Mill are at their peak this week. Desert gold and sand verbena are the primary stars, but a little searching will reveal desert five-spot here and there. The bloom has spread to the alluvial fans just above Ashford Junction along Hwy 178, the site of the biggest and most photographed field of flowers in 2005. This year the desert gold are only a few inches high instead of several feet and the density of plants only a fifth of what that bumper year had. Even so, it is still worth a visit.
“In Rhodes Wash, to the east of Jubilee Pass there is a lot of wildflower diversity, but other than a nice area of brittlebush, most drivers on Hwy. 178 will only notice patches of roadside flowers. If you get out of your car and take a closer look, it is possible to find 20 different species of wildflowers in bloom. Bring your field guides and close-up lens to best appreciate the flowers here.”
And, Apple is making the identification of wildflowers even easier with Audubon and wildflower e-guides applications for its phones and other portable devices.
For more information, go to www.nps,gov.deva or www.desertusa.com.

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