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After The Rain Come The Wildflowers! Here’s Where We Stand On This Year’s Blooms

Bright orange poppy flowers bloom in the foreground as people walk in the background against a blue sky and power lines.
People visit the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster last April.
Frederic J. Brown
AFP via Getty Images
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Want to see wildflower blooms this season?

You’re in luck!

After a spate of major storms this season, wildflower blooms are already starting to pop up in desert parks like Anza Borrego and are expected to grow in the coming weeks.

“We're gonna have a really really good, showy bloom event” across the region, said Danny McCamish, a senior environmental scientist at Anza Borrego Desert State Park, which spans from eastern San Diego County to parts of Imperial and Riverside counties.

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That’s because more rain has fallen than usual.

“We expect probably an above average bloom,” McCamish said. “I think it could be really vast, stretching all the way up into the later part of the season, up into the Death Valley area.”

Purple wildflowers bloom in the foreground as an SUV drives in the desert with hills and mountains in the background.
BORREGO SPRINGS, CA - MARCH 6: Following record winter rains, wildflowers have been popping up at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, drawing thousands of visitors to a rare "super bloom" of plant life on March 6, 2019, near Borrego Springs, California. It is extremely rare to have two "super blooms" occurring two years apart, but both the 2017 and 2019 bursts of desert color have taken place immediately after an El Nino winter rainy season. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
George Rose/Getty Images
Getty Images North America

Flowers are already blooming at Anza Borrego, but big flower shows also depend on the region.

One of the more popular bloom-sighting spots — the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve — is expecting only a “mediocre” poppy season, but for wildflowers it should be decent, said Callista Turner, a state parks interpreter at the reserve.

That’s because the poppy reserve is considered high desert, and flowers at that elevation aren’t acclimated to excessive rainfall.

“When we experience larger than average rainstorms, what we see is that the non-native invasive grasses really take over. And then they start to especially out-compete and hide poppies,” she said. “So you don't get those vibrant… almost like violent orange hillsides that you can see from miles away.”

When and where to find blooms

Individual state parks post updates on their social media feeds and websites, and the overall parks system plans to publish updates on this webpage.

Updates on Anza Borrego blooms are also posted by the Anza Borrego Foundation on this website.

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At the poppy reserve, Turner said the peak of each season’s bloom isn’t known until a couple days later when fewer flowers are around.

“It's entirely dependent on the temperature, the weather,” she said.

So the best thing to do is check the state parks system’s Poppy Reserve Live camera feed to see what the flowers look like.

You can also call the poppy reserve’s wildflower bloom hotline at (661) 724-1180, which updates weekly with the info on what’s blooming.

Where do things stand now

Etiquette and safety when visiting blooms

Parks officials urge visitors to stay on trails and avoid trampling on the plants.

“You can find all sorts of angles to get your Instagram shot without having to stomp on the flowers,” Turner said. “Poppies and other native flowers that are in our grasslands, they're very sensitive, they will just simply die and leave bald spots. So toward the end of the season, you can see where people have stepped off the trail and it just contributes to this compressed earth, where flowers will not grow next year.”

No dogs are allowed on trails at the poppy reserve, except for service animals.

At desert parks like Anza Borrego, officials also encourage visitors to keep their distance from animals, like bighorn sheep and rattlesnakes.

“Generally, they don't want to harm you, but we should avoid them,” McCamish said. “We should always take pictures and leave only footprints, right?”

More viewing best practices

Here's guidance from the California Botanic Garden on how to responsibly view the state's spectacular flower blooms:

  • Stay on designated trails: real trails — not those newly blazed by the person before you.
  • Take photos only; leave wildflowers where they are.
  • Plant your own super bloom by sowing seeds from reputable nurseries such as the Grow Native Nursery at CalBG or Theodore Payne Foundation.
  • Volunteer with organizations to help maintain native ecosystems.
  • Avoid visiting the most vulnerable parks with high visitation (i.e., those that you may be hearing about on the news or social media). Instead, spread out to other areas. There is a lot to see in California!
  • Share these guidelines with others: your friends, family, people you see violating them.
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