By Bob Difley

This is one of the best times to be in the Southwestern Deserts. When the New England states are trying to cope with single digit temps and the south and mid-west are experiencing record cold, the mid 60-degree readings in the desert bring us out in T-shirts and shorts.

But it still is only mid January, and though the nights are dipping into the mid forties, the day time sun not only triggers our Spring genes, it also begins tickling the genes of Spring wildflowers.

Wait a minute. Wildflowers? In January? Well, not quite, but if the days continue sunny (likely) the lower deserts along the Colorado River at the Parker Strip, the Yuma area, and south central Arizona around Organ Pipe Cactus NM, as well as Anza Borrego State Park in California will soon have wildflower leaves and stems poking up through the scree on sunny slopes and in sandy washes.

This scenario, played to the accompaniment of adequate gentle winter rain,  enough hours of daytime sun, and temperatures inching upward from cold, all orchestrate to invigorate the wildflowers to rise from their life of dormancy to bestow on us the riot of color as if Jackson Pollack had flung his paints across the desert floor.

Before you can say Happy Valentine’s Day, Arizona poppies, blue phacelia, sand verbena, brittle bush, desert sunflower, globemallow (top photo),  lupine, and Canterbury bells (photo left) will wave their colors at you as you pass by.

Look for the first wildflowers along the sides of  washes where the most moisture collects, and on roadsides, where the Winter rains have flowed off the roads to collect and water buried and unseen seeds. Sunny hillsides will also begin to sprout with new green shoots as will the base of rocks that retain warmth like a blanket covering the dormant plants about to awaken.

Visit your favorite bookstore and pick up a desert wildflower guide, and brochures from desert visitor centers. Anza Borrego SP and Joshua Tree NP also have wildflower hot lines that you can call to find out what is blooming now, and soon, and where.

If you can stick it out until April, when the temperatures start reaching into the 90s, you will see the cacti begin to bloom, with their impossibly bright, neon-like flowers, displaying their extravagant flashiness like the rock stars of the desert.


Leave a Reply


  1. B.J. McCord

    If you are ‘boon docking’ on BLM land say in the Quartzsite/Lake Havasu City areas, is it ‘within the law’ to use your UTV to get around and explore, as long as you don’t get on any paved roads? I’d rather not bother hauling it , if it isn’t ‘within the law’.
    I would really appreciate a ‘git bak’ if anyone knows, please.
    [email protected]

  2. Bob,

    Nice article. Makes me want to come out to the desert but we have too many obligations here at home. We are going to try to get out to the Big Bend area the latter part of March. Might be able to seem some of the spring wild flowers there before the Blue Bonnets start up in our area of Texas.


  3. rudehog

    is there any place in Texas, or New Mexico, where a person might boondock, for the winter? I M new at this, any help would be appreciated.

    THANKS Rudehog

  4. Judy

    You are getting very poetic. Sounds like you have been in the desert sun too long. I am really just jealous because I am stuck here in the snow and you are there. Thanks for the bit of sunshine in a frigid life.

  5. Ronald

    Glad your enjoying the warmth and the beginning of the blooms!! We sure rolled the dice and picked the wrong winter to spend in the RGV & now over in the Rockport area! However, the birds are great. However, we didn’t bring enough warm clothes with us!

    Great story and take care.

  6. I like your style of writing. Very interesting. I was wintering in Yuma,AZ in
    03 and o4 when the flowers and grass began to grow and bloom.
    Absolutately beautiful. Even across the Co. river in Ca. A site I will not forget.Have a Blessed 2010