Bob Sihler transferred this album to me and his wording remains on the page.
As many SP members know firsthand, nature is full of miracles, and it is impossible to state with any authority beyond personal preference what the greatest of those miracles is. Wildflowers are unquestionably among those miracles. They are the harbingers of spring and summer and herald a triumphal affirmation of life over the odds against it. And the greatest show of them all is the spring bloom in the desert. The blooming cacti and other wildflowers turn a place that under a high, hot sun seems colorless into a riot of color. It is an affirmation of life and the renewal of some ancient pact between the earth and the sun that we can never fully understand. Science can explain the processes, but it cannot explain the why. Science might tell us the bright colors are there to attract pollinators during the time of bloom—sometimes less than a day—but that explanation fails to satisfy the soul. To me, those blooms, in all their brightness and in spite of their ephemeral natures, scream out their defiance against the brutal conditions in which they survive. They move me to thoughts I cannot articulate, and all I can do is feel, reminding of Wordsworth’s great words—“To me, the meanest flower that blows can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”
Another little miracle is the macro lens. Without that and a tripod, most of these pictures would have been impossible to get.
When and Where to Go
The Southwest seems to offer endless opportunities, but for variety and abundance, some places do seem to stand out. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, and Big Bend National Park in Texas are my favorites. Late February through mid-May is the unofficial flowering season, and late March and early April tend to be the best. Adjust accordingly for locations further north. Cacti tend to bloom a little later than most other desert wildflowers do.
Weather also plays a big role, and the effect of rain or lack of it has both long- and short-term impacts. When the winter has been drier than average, the blooming is less profuse; the opposite is true for “wet” winters. 1998, for example, was a great wildflowers year due to El Nino’s having given the Southwest a relative soaking that year. But rain can even have a day-to-day effect. In April 2003, I arrived in Death Valley National Park expecting valley temperatures around 90 but instead found cooler temperatures, heavy rain, and even snow over the course of several days. In less than a week’s time, the desert seemed to be blooming everywhere.
Cane Cholla - by Bob Sihler
Prickly Pear Bloom - by Anya Jingle
Indian Blanket & Showy Primrose - by slowbutsteady