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Wildflower season jeopardized by lack of rain

These wildflowers carpeted hilltops in Southern Pinal County in March 2008.

These wildflowers carpeted hilltops in Southern Pinal County in March 2008.

Don’t expect a budding wildflower season this year.

Southern Arizona had a normal December, but the winter is not generating enough rain to spark a prime wildflower season, an area botanist said.

For wildflowers to germinate properly, they need a healthful dose of rain in winter, said George Montgomery, curator of botany at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The Tucson rain total for December was average (just more than an inch), but October and November combined logged 0.29 of an inch versus 1.88 inches normal for the two-month period, the National Weather Service reports.

“It wasn’t enough for widespread germination,” Montgomery said.

There are no seedlings in wildflower hot spots from which he has heard reports, he said.

The outlook is much the same throughout the state. Picacho Peak State Park, a wildflower mecca 40 miles north of Tucson that in good years has extensive poppy fields, has had half the rain it got last year between September and January, said Arizona State Parks spokeswoman Ellen Bilbrey.

The December rain helped.

“But whether it was enough to really launch a full poppy bloom, we don’t know yet,” Bilbrey said.

The landscape at Picacho is greening up nicely, but it’s mostly grass, she said.

“We haven’t had any reports of flowers,” she said.

Because wildflower blooms are different every year and different in every spot, it’s hard to predict exactly where and when or if the colors will emerge.

Alamo Lake State Park between Phoenix and Havasu City had a great year in 2007 but was a dud last year, she said.

State Parks rangers will again post photos of wildflower blooms on the agency’s Web site, Bilbrey said.

The periodic postings from each state park let the public know what’s out there before the head out or to see the flowers if they can’t go where the flowers are, she said.



Winter annuals

Poppies, lupines and owl clover normally bloom between late February and mid-April. Look for a peak around mid-March.

Perennials and small shrubs

Penstemon, brittlebush and fairy dusters are less spectacular but more reliable than annuals. They bloom in March.


The greatest diversity is in April, but prickly pears usually bloom in May and saguaros in late May or June.

Trees and large shrubs

Creosote and acacias bloom during spring and sometimes in summer. Paloverde trees generally bloom in late April or May.

Source: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum



Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: www.desertmuseum.org

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