Rain, showers ... flowers?

Nature Lover’s corner

Rain, showers ... flowers?By DAN BURNETT

We desert dwellers start thinking about spring around now. We forget that temps are still dropping into the mid-20s some nights and that most every year we get a very cold snap in late April or early May. We’re optimists; we think spring is nearly here.

When we expect spring, we think we can expect wildflowers as well.

This year was a wet year here. I think we had lots more than our normal 2.5, or so, inches of rain. Not only did we have lots of rain, but the rains were also spread out over the last few months. So that means we will have lots of wildflowers this year. Or will we?

Lots of rain alone does not necessarily mean that a great wildflower year is ahead.

If you stop and think about wildflowers, you soon realize that they are nearly magical things. They pop up in glory one year and then may not bloom again for many years. Some of them come up even in drought years in at least a few places. Then there are some that you may see one wet year and not see again through two or three wet-year cycles. These plants have survived in arid conditions for millions and millions of years.

Many of the flowers have seeds that are tiny time capsules. These seeds can sit dormant for years (maybe centuries) waiting for just the right combination of temperature, moisture, wind, and who knows what else before they sprout, magically, to life.

Some seeds need to be abraded by being blown across the ground or tumbled down in run-offs before they can germinate. Some need to be buried under just the right amount of soil before they come to life. Others need a certain amount of freezing days. Same need to root in a shady spot while some need full sun all day before they send up shoots.

Some that we like to call weeds are indiscriminate – they come up wherever and whenever you don’t want them.

On any day the weather conditions across our desert very greatly from place to place. You can be standing in the warm sun while a mile away there is a downpour.

Some places can receive a cloudburst at the right time for certain seeds to flourish and later be covered with flowers while other places not far away might not have any rain for the whole year. You can see then that the rain around you isn’t a predicter of how great the wildflower bloom in the desert will be in any year.

Pretty soon we will see how this year rates for its wildflower season. Wildflowers should be popping up any time in Death Valley. In a few weeks we’ll see some here in our valley.

Then, in April visit the Maturango Museum’s annual Wildflower Exhibit to see the variety of wildflowers we will have this year.

Story First Published: 2019-02-15