Here's one big benefit of living in a city with deserts out the front door and 9,000-foot mountains nearby: a wildflower season that goes on for about seven months.

This week - after a desert wildflower bloom that started in March followed by a cactus bloom that's still going on - comes an early start of the mountain flower season.

Yellow columbines, red paintbrush and other mountain species will keep the high country colorful well into September.

"I've already seen columbines this year, and we'll see greater quantities later in the season," said Frank Rose, author of "Mountain Wildflowers of Southern Arizona: A Field Guide to the Santa Catalina Mountains and Other Nearby Ranges."

Meg Quinn, an environmental educator for Pima County and author of "Wildflowers of the Desert Southwest," said she recently spotted wildflowers starting to bloom at elevations of 6,000 to 7,000 feet in the Chiricahua Mountains southeast of Willcox.

"Of course the best time for most species is after the rains get going," Quinn said.


The Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, accessible by the Catalina Highway, were showing wildflower color at some sites this week.

Hikers along the Green Mountain Trail, with a trailhead between mile markers 11 and 12 on the highway, trekked past clumps of columbines, a few paintbrush blooms and wild gardens of ferns.

A bit later in the season, wildflowers grace most trails in the Catalinas. Check out the Marshall Gulch Trail, about a mile south of the village of Summerhaven, and the Aspen Draw Trail, near Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, for good displays.

On StarNet: See photos of wildflowers that StarNet readers have shared on the reader gallery at

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