Last week, my wife and I knew we had to head west to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, about a two-hour drive east of San Diego. Predictions of a superbloom were all over the news. The winter rains critical to awakening the seed bank in the desert floor were perfect this year. Beyond the spectacular ghost flowers, desert lilies, various species of cactus, vast stretches of yellow, orange, or white “comps” (sunflower family), evening primroses, lupines, sand verbenas, ocotillos, orange-flowered mallows, poppies, Canterbury bells, monkeyflowers, brilliant red chuparosas, blazing stars, indigo bush… there was also a sense of contrast with life in the Arnold Arboretum.
Live fast and die young might be the best way to capture the essence of what we experienced in Anza-Borrego – at least among the myriad annuals that were on glorious display. For annuals, life in a hot dry desert is not so much about slugging it out. Rather, it is about waiting for the perfect window of opportunity when water and weather align to provide just what is needed to make a bolt for a very short life before the world again becomes inhospitable. Entire lives of plants are measured in weeks, rather than years, decades or centuries.
Herewith, a few pictures of some of some of the smallest and most ephemeral plants in flower in Anza-Borrego this past week. Upper image, Nama demissum (purplemat), lower left, about 50 Crassula connata (pygmy stonecrop) in a square inch of desert, and Eschscholzia minutiflora (pygmy poppy). For scale, background in all images is sand grains. Once seed are set, they will remain below ground for years, if not decades, until once again, the perfect (and relatively rare) conditions return. For a few more pictures of plants and landscapes from the superbloom in Anza-Borrego, head to my Flickr site (click here).