Wildflowers — from dazzling red coral beans to brilliant yellow columbines — are blooming across the Catalina Mountains, bolstered by more than 2 inches of monsoon rainfall in the past week.

“It’s beautiful up here!” said Pamela Selby-Harmon, officer in charge of the Mount Lemmon post office in the village of Summerhaven.

“Lots of flowers are in bloom, and we’re happy to see more rain,” said Selby-Harmon as monsoon rain pattered down on the post office roof.

Monsoon storms swept into Southern Arizona last week — bearing a bounty of moisture. Some parts of Tucson have received more than an inch of rain since last Thursday, but the Catalina Mountains have received much more than that. The top of Mount Lemmon in the Catalinas has received at least 2.56 inches since last week, while the Palisades Ranger Station area was drenched with 3.74 inches.

“We’re ecstatic. It’s been so dry that this moisture is definitely welcome,” said Michael Stanley, manager of the Mount Lemmon Water District. “We’ve had just under 2 inches in the Summerhaven area. And it seems that once the summer rain starts, everything greens up. The rain has really perked the plants up.”

A rich mix of mountain wildflowers — from lupines and penstemons to New Mexico groundsels — were lacing the mountains with color before the rains moved in. But the added moisture is nurturing additional blooms and other woodland plants including dense clumps of bracken ferns.


You are likely to see plenty of wild blooms on a drive up the 25-mile Catalina Highway northeast of Tucson or on hiking trails in the Catalinas.

Here are some species to see:

  • Bright red coral bean blooms aren’t as common as some other flowers in the range, but you can find some along a short overlook trail at the Molino Canyon Vista between mile markers 4 and 5 on the highway.
  • Lots of tall-stalked agave plants are sporting yellow blooms along the highway a mile or two below Windy Point Vista, which is at the 14-mile point on the road.
  • Yellow columbine flowers are blooming at many places in the Catalinas. One place to see them is along a road leading into Marshall Gulch south of the village of Summerhaven.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@tucson.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz