Rains make summer poppies pop up

2013-08-10T00:00:00Z 2013-10-17T16:04:22Z Rains make summer poppies pop upDoug Kreutz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Catch a glimpse of a big clump of dazzling summer poppies in the desert and you might think someone had rolled the calendar back to spring.

Summer poppies, also known as caltrops, are showing up now in brilliant but very scattered displays in the Tucson area.

At first glance, they look quite a bit like the Mexican gold poppies that carpet the desert in March and early April.

But the summer blooms, which appear in August when monsoon rains are plentiful, are a different species from the spring poppies.

"The summer poppy is Kallstroemia grandiflora," said Mark Dimmitt, a wildflower expert and former director of natural history at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. "It's not in the poppy family. It's in the same family as the creosote bush and the exotic puncture vine."

George Montgomery, curator of botany at the Desert Museum, said "the misnomer 'poppy' probably alludes to its similar appearance of our great Mexican gold poppies, which are in the poppy family."

The non-poppy pedigree doesn't stop avid wildflower fans from seeking out these late bloomers for a dose of midsummer color.

The flowers have shown up in some desert areas that got soaking monsoon rains.

One area where they have been in bloom this week is along a stretch of the Gates Pass Road near its intersection with Kinney Road west of Tucson.

Be aware that patches of summer poppies appear just here and there - not in expansive floral carpets like those produced by gold poppies in the spring.

Bigger displays sometimes are seen in desert grasslands.

"There are probably great fields of them in Southeastern Arizona right now after a soaking-wet July," Dimmitt said.

Montgomery said sites that sometimes have fields of summer poppies include the road leading to Madera Canyon south of Tucson and areas along Arizona 80 near Douglas.

On StarNet: See a short video of the summer poppies near Gates Pass at azstarnet.com/video

"There are probably great fields of them in Southeastern Arizona right now after a soaking-wet July."

Mark Dimmitt,

a wildflower expert and former director of natural history at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

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

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