Wildflowers in the desert around Tucson could still come through with a “pretty good” spring bloom, even though the city has received a paltry 0.01 inch of rain so far this year, flower experts say.
The reason: Deep-soaking rains in late November triggered germination of annual wildflowers and nurtured the roots of perennial species.
“I’m still hopeful that we could have a pretty good spring bloom of both annuals and perennials, although the warm and dry January has triggered some early flowering,” said Meg Quinn, an environmental educator for Pima County and the author of books including “Wildflowers of the Desert Southwest.”
“Now that temperatures have cooled, if we get one good rain soon, this could give the annual seedlings the boost they need in order to flower later and larger, rather than early and stunted,” Quinn said. “With or without a substantial rain in February, the perennials could produce an excellent show.”
Among wildflowers already bursting into bloom in early February are fairy duster, desert rock pea and ragged rockflower.
“They are in full bloom on high south-facing slopes in Romero Canyon (north of Tucson) and elsewhere, and brittlebush is poised to explode with color,” Quinn said.
STILL HOPE FOR ANNUALS
Additional rain this month is a key to amping up the bloom of annual wildflowers, including carpet-forming species such as Mexican gold poppy and desert lupine, said Mark Dimmitt, a wildflower expert and retired director of natural history at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
“The annuals here (in the Tucson Mountains west of the city) are still healthy looking and mostly not bolting yet, so another rain may stimulate more growth before they flower,” Dimmitt said. “Otherwise there will be lots of tiny plants with a couple of flowers each.”
He said places that concentrate runoff or hold water — including dunes, road shoulders and bases of boulders — may support larger annual flowers.
Perennial plants, which produce flowers from the same root structure year after year, could show a good bloom thanks to the 1½ to 2 inches of rain in November that penetrated deep into the soil, Dimmitt said.