California superbloom is springing to life and the best is yet to come

আপডেট: মার্চ ১৯, ২০২৪

California will soon be decorated with a rainbow of wildflowers after drenching winter rain set the stage for a spectacular spring superbloom.

A superbloom has no exact criteria, wildflower experts told CNN, but is thought of as a particularly vivid display of abundant wildflowers blooming all at once, a sight that is already starting to take shape.

“It’s definitely looking like it’s going to be a good season,” said Evan Meyer, a botanist and the Executive Director of the nonprofit Theodore Payne Foundation. Meyer said the bloom was already off to a lovely start in parts of Southern California.

Wildflowers began to bloom this February in some of Southern California’s low elevation deserts and will continue to inject new life into the dry landscape throughout the spring, likely reaching a peak in scope and color around April, according to Meyer. Neighboring mountains, where snow and chilly conditions reign supreme through spring, won’t bloom until the summer.

The phenomenon isn’t unique to California; wildflowers can paint parched desert landscapes, mountains and grasslands in Arizona and Nevada, too, but some of the most dense and therefore spectacular displays are found in Southern California.

Wildflower blooms are never exactly the same from year to year. The number of wildflowers and when they bloom depends heavily on weather conditions in the winter and spring, so it’s unclear if this year’s bloom will rival last year’s.

“Last year was incredible, it was one of the best blooms in many years,” Meyer gushed.

Wildflowers need plenty of water to bloom en masse, and this winter delivered after a series of atmospheric river-fueled storms with soaking rain to the Southern California deserts.

Wildflower blooms in California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, about 50 miles south of Palm Springs, have already begun to paint the normally tan, dry landscape with vivid purples, yellows, greens and whites. Blooms are also underway in Chino Hills State Park, outside of Anaheim, and Tule Elk State Natural Reserve, about 60 miles north of Santa Barbara.

The flowers are notoriously sensitive to weather conditions, so visit them while you can. There’s a “Goldilocks zone” of rainfall and temperature some native wildflowers need to thrive, according to Callista Turner, a ranger with Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.

Desert sand verbena and dune evening primrose wildflowers bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s Coyote Canyon on Thursday, March 14. – Danny L. McCamish/California State Parks
Desert sand verbena and dune evening primrose wildflowers bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s Coyote Canyon on Thursday, March 14. – Danny L. McCamish/California State Parks
More heavy rain in the coming months could cause problems for the flowers. Temperatures must also hit a certain threshold for wildflowers to bloom and remain mild for the plants to persist through much of the spring, so any heat could do tremendous damage to the blooms.

“If we get a really big spike in temperatures, it could end a bloom in as little as three days,” Turner told CNN.

The displays are also not guaranteed in coming years as climate change tips the scale toward more frequent extremes.

As the atmosphere warms because of human-driven climate change, it’s able to soak up more moisture like a towel and then ring it out in the form of heavier gushes of rainfall. But extreme drought has also plagued the West in recent decades, and scientists say the region is becoming more arid as the planet warms.

“The desert is a harsher environment than the average place and many plants have adapted to that. But [the wildflowers] aren’t used to having these progressively bigger swings in hot, dry years followed by the really wet years that climate change is giving to us,” Turner explained.

In extremely wet years, non-native invasive plants can expand their territory and compete with the native wildflowers – like the California poppy – for space and resources, according to Turner.

Individual poppies have begun to dot the landscape of the Antelope Valley reserve, located north of Los Angeles, but the possibility of a widespread bloom is in limbo because of record rain in the area earlier this year.

“We don’t know as of yet if it’s going to be a good year for the poppies, given the rain,” Turner cautioned.

Humans also have a hand – and a foot – in the wildflowers’ survival.

Anyone headed to a California park to bask in the beauty of the season or capture the perfect social-media-worthy photo is urged to stay on designated trails to protect the wildflowers. Picking wildflowers is also highly discouraged.

“When people step on wildflowers, it damages the flowers, compresses the soil and leaves bald spots.” Turner said.

“We want the flowers to be there for everyone – to live out their natural cycle and then produce seeds so blooms continue year-after-year.”

Experts emphasize there’s beauty beneath the colorful blooms, too.

“I look out and think, ‘Man, there are billions and billions of seeds being produced right now,’ and that’s just as amazing as stretch of colorful wildflowers,” Meyer said. “The deeper your connection to these natural systems, the more anything you see is going to be meaningful, beautiful and inspiring.”