Our bloom is not a bust after all.

Some wildflower experts predicted in December that the spring color show might be a no-show due to a lack of autumn rains - but timely winter storms have boosted the bloom at many sites around Tucson.

"We got rains later in December and January - and with the right frequency to get germination," said John Wiens, nursery horticulturist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. "Without those rains, we might have had almost nothing" in the way of wildflowers.

This year's bloom still might be below average, Wiens said.

"But it will be pretty in spots, and there probably will be some areas with a 'wow factor,' " he said.


Rains in October and November are seen as a key to a brilliant spring bloom - but Tucson got a meager 0.03 of an inch from the end of September to early December.

Then things changed.

Nicely spaced rains - 1.18 inches in December, 0.81 of an inch in January and 0.79 of an inch in February - spurred a last-minute germination in many species.

Yes, it was also very cold.

"But cold weather never hurts seedlings," Wiens said. "They grow very low to the ground. The cold might stunt their growth, but not kill them."


Among the wildflower species showing up around Tucson this week:

• Mexican gold poppies

• Globemallow - often in red-orange hues

• Yellow brittlebush

• Purple-blue lupine

• White desert chicory

• Bright yellow bahia

• Pink fairy duster


You might happen across a splash of wildflower color almost anywhere in deserts and canyons near Tucson. Here are a few spots to try:

• Saguaro National Park West - Splendid displays of gold poppies were visible just south of Picture Rocks Road in the northeastern part of the park. Take Ina Road west of Interstate 10 to Wade Road. Turn south on Wade and follow it as it turns into Picture Rocks Road. Watch for flowers at the bottom of a hill less than a mile into the park.

Lee Mason of Tohono Chul Park noted, "I have seen poppies, blue bells, larkspur, anemone and possible mariposa lily on the higher elevations up the Picture Rocks Wash."

• Catalina State Park - Poppies are blooming along the main road in the park north of Tucson, and hikers report abundant blooms a little more than a mile up the park's Sutherland Trail.

• The Catalina Highway - Watch for poppies, blue phacelias, fairy dusters and other flowers along the first mile of the highway northeast of Tucson. More flowers are in bloom near the Babad Do'ag Vista and trailhead at the 2.6-mile point on the road.

• Finger Rock Canyon Trail - The trail, and those in other canyons of the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, lead hikers past trailside blooms. You might spot several species of flowers, but don't expect expansive displays.

On StarNet: To see readers' best flower photos or to upload your top shots, visit azstarnet.com/wildflowers

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