Borrego Springs shopkeepers prepared as well as they could to handle the visitors expected to drop in for the Borrego Valley wildflowers of 2017. Based in part on weather predictions of lots of rain, which turned out to be fairly accurate–and lessons of the past, namely the 2005–2006 rainy season which had brought tens of thousands to the town’s restaurants and stores–fears for a repeat brought about careful preparations.
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Traffic at 100x normal on Highway 78 to see the wildflowers, March 11, 2017.
Yet, already by mid-March, the liberally planned-for reserves were being depleted. What has been most surprising has been bumper-to-bumper traffic snarls on the four access roads entering and leaving town, even during mid-week.
If you are looking for a remedy to the crowds, arrive as early as you can, including midweek visits, but prepare yourself for lines at the restaurants at any time.
As April approaches, the “peak” is thought to have been passed for the massive swaths of flowers in Borrego Valley, but other blooms are just beginning such as the cacti and flowers at the higher elevations of the Anza Borrego State Park, like Blair Valley.
The photos on this page were taken in mid-March, 2017. Click on any photo below to enter manual slide show.
Photos below by Barbara Swanson
The uncommon desert five spot
The telltale reddish-brown stalks and leaves of the seldom-seen Desert Five Spot, Eremalche rotundifolia, precede its pink, globular flowers which open in the morning and close in the afternoon.
Easily found in the Borrego area with the 2017 spring rains, the bright magenta monkeyflower, Mimulus bigelovii, can dominate sandy washes and the edges of bajadas. This little cluster found refuge under a boulder near the trailhead to Alcoholic Pass loop.
A desert five spot closing
The spherical flower cup slowly closes for the night after its pollinators have retreated, starting about two hours before sunset. It is a strategy to preserve vital energy and moisture for the next day.
Caterpillar on evening primrose
A single bud of the California Evening Primrose, Camissonia californica, is about to meet a white-lined sphinx moth caterpillar. Before becoming a hummingbird moth, it will pupate in the desert sand until the time is right. Then, Hyles lineata will emerge to zoom back and forth around its plant food, hovering in flight like a hummingbird.
Brown-eyed Primrose Chylismia claviformis, the most prolific flowering plant brought by the 2017’s rains, provides the subtle, pale crème carpeting of the Borrego Valley seen at its best along the DiGiorgio Road and Henderson Valley Road strips. The color may not be flamboyant, but is no less beautiful than the fragrant evening primrose and the verbena trying to compete with it.
The stunning desert lily Hesperocallis undulata sprouts in the sandiest areas of the Borrego Valley. It is sometimes the only plant seen growing on a sand dune. It seems almost funny that it belongs to the asparagus family and, surprisingly, is also closely related to the agave plant.
The open cup of a desert five spot
The five spot makes for an attractive stranger in a bouquet of forget-me-nots.
A pollinator’s job…
…is not such a bad one! A desert sunflower, Geraea canescens, provides a nice workplace for a bee covered in pollen. The desert sunflower is a good drought survivor and will always put on a big orange and yellow show when the rains return.
The crown of a mammillaria Mammillaria doica, one of over 200 species of “pincushion cactus,” reaches a full wreath near Yaqii Wash Primitive Campground.
Sphericles of fluorescent pink verbena
Needing moist, porous sand, the Desert Sand Verbena, Abronia villosa, is a resilient plant that easily takes up residence in washes and flats, even along roadsides. It often outnumbers any other flower, as may be seen in the Henderson Valley Road and Peg Leg Road areas.
Pollinator or predator
A would-be pollinator peers into the seemingly vast center of a desert sunflower Geraea canescens.