While our desert has not been blessed with the rains we generally need each fall and winter to bring forth an abundant wildflower showing this spring, you can still find pockets of color in some hidden nooks and crannies, or where there is supplemental watering.
Plants "invented" flowers to fool insects into becoming their evolutionary allies. Through enticements such as color, shape, odor and food (in the form of nectar and pollen), plants ensured themselves of fertile seeds to carry on the generations.
Around the country there is a return to native and natural landscapes and gardens. People are seeking a connection to the wild and bringing a conservation-consciousness to their own backyards.
Yards that used to look the same from Indiana to Arizona are now more diverse, some featuring as many as 100 different species.
In Tucson these new landscapes encourage the return of wildlife - including birds and butterflies, insects and reptiles - to urban areas.
With the incorporation of native trees, shrubs and grasses, along with a water source, entire habitats can be created that offer food and shelter for desert dwellers.
The special adaptations of plants native to the Sonoran Desert allow them to survive extremes of heat and drought. The seeds of winter ephemerals, or annuals, lie dormant until just the right combination of temperature and rainfall trigger germination.
Above-average rain in November and December, coupled with favorable temperatures, translate into a dizzying array of colors from mid-February through April.
These annuals, such as desert bluebells and Mexican gold poppies, mature quickly. They flower, produce and disperse seed and then die back, all in six weeks or less. The energy of the plant is preserved in its seeds, which will wait for another season to bloom again.
Perennials such as desert marigold and succulents such as ocotillo survive the heat of summer by dying back to the roots or dropping their leaves. They will respond to moisture from winter and summer rains with a new burst of growth and flowering.
Catch a Wildflower Tour
Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, offers weekly wildflower tours. Included in the price of admission ($8 for adults, with discounts available), they are offered at 10 a.m. Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays through April 30.
Jo Falls is director of education and visitor services at Tohono Chul Park.