Summer mountain wildflowers — including brilliant yellow columbines — are blooming now even as saguaros are just reaching the peak of their spring bloom in the desert.

Joining the early blooming flowers along the Green Mountain Trail in the Catalina Mountains are clumps of bracken ferns and maple trees leafed out for summer.

“I think it’s early for the columbines to be blooming,” said Frank Rose, a wildflower expert and author of “Mountain Wildflowers of Southern Arizona: A Field Guide to the Santa Catalina Mountains and Other Nearby Ranges.”

“A lot of things are earlier this year than they have been in the past,” Rose said. “One reason is probably the warm and wet winter we had.”

Of columbines, Rose said, “They’re very beautiful and they have a wonderful scent — almost like vanilla, but its own unique scent.”

SIGNS OF SUMMER

A few wildflowers with purple-blue blooms and other yellow-blooming species are showing up along the Green Mountain Trail in addition to columbines.

Ferns with emerald-green fronds add to the beauty of the forest from now until autumn.

A faint trickle of water flowed this week in one section of a stream bed along the trail.

How to GET TO THE TRAIL

The Green Mountain Trail is a 4.3-mile route that connects two trailheads along the Catalina Highway northeast of Tucson. A lower trailhead is between mile markers 11 and 12 and an upper one is between mile markers 17 and 18.

At altitudes ranging from about 6,000 to 7,000 feet, the trail winds through oak and pine forests and follows an often-dry stream bed up a wooded canyon before climbing to a broad ridge with expansive views.

Mountain wildflowers this early in the season are most likely to be found along the lower mile or two of the route.

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