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Visitors Surprised to Find California Desert Teeming with Life

LOS ANGELES – As a result of some very damp winters in California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a vast display of brightly colored flowers is attracting nature lovers to delight in a phenomenon that has so far occurred four times in this century.

This seasonal mantle of wildflowers, which began to blossom with lilacs last February, spreads through parts of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and will continue to blossom until the end of March, the second time this gift of nature has occurred in the last two years after the “super bloom” of 2017.

“Many people are impressed to see that so much beauty can grow in the sand,” Sally Theriault, the park’s visitor center manager, told EFE.

Theriault said that visitors are wowed by “the magic of all those colors growing in the desert” and by the contrast they make with their arid surroundings.

This spectacular flowering, which appears on the average once every 10 years in a particular area, occurred in 2005, a little less impressively in 2012, and in 2017, which according to state park authorities was the most amazing in 20 years and attracted crowds that packed the adjoining small town of Borrego Springs in Southern California.

Two “super blooms” in two years is highly unusual and the reason thousands of visitors have come in the last two weeks to this park, which covers over 240,000 hectares (590,000 acres) and whose name comes from the Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza y Borrego, in order to admire almost 100 different wildflowers – on condition they don’t uproot them.

“When we see a super bloom is after we’ve had droughts for three, four, or up to seven years. The seeds of the weeds don’t last that long, but wildflower seeds do,” and can survive for years “as if asleep, without drying out or rotting,” Theriault said.

Afterwards, if there is enough rainfall in the winter, as occurred this year, “the wildflower seeds have the chance to germinate and grow,” the visitor center manager said.

However, they have little time to grow and blossom before the hot temperatures begin in April, she added.

One of Anza-Borrego’s mantles of flowers is in Coyote Canyon, where the yellow of San Diego sunflowers (Hulsea californica), the purple of the desert sand-verbena (Abronia villosa) and the Arizona lupine (Lupinus arizonicus) predominate, along with the white and pink of the basket evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides), among other wildflowers.

Caroline Edwards, 68, is one of the visitors who has come to the park with friends from far away to enjoy these floral phenomena.

“We heard it said that the blossoming would be fantastic this year so my friends came down from Tacoma, Washington,” Edwards told EFE.

“The super bloom is unusual, it doesn’t happen every year. We’ve had downpours this season in Southern California and that brings out the flowers,” she said.

Another admirer is the Mexican Claudia Braq, who took advantage of the visit to take a number of selfies in Coyote Canyon with the multicolored blanket of flowers as the backdrop.

“The colors of the flowers are incredible!” said Braq, to whom it appeared “a blessing” to see “so many flowers” blooming in the desert sand, and which offer particularly good views from the hilltops of the area.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is one of the most visited tourist attractions during these “super bloom” days, even though this natural phenomenon also occurs at other California sites like Joshua Tree National Park, Cold Creek Preserve, and Lake Elsinore in Walker Canyon.


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