2010 California Desert Wildflower Prognostications

Ocotillo and Arizon Lupine. Colorado Desert, California

Despite the copious amounts of rain and snow that have fallen on California’s deserts since late November 2009, the 2010 desert wildflower season (if there is to be one) is off to a rather poor start. The attached photograph was made on March 9, 2008. If I were to take you to this location today, we would find nothing like the sweep of Arizona Lupine we see surrounding these Ocotillo. In fact, as of a few days ago, flower-less was this location and many others that are typically in flower at this time. Many high desert residents have delayed their spring gardening, as winter has hung around for as much as one month longer than in most years. The continued precipitation, cold, and wind has done little to encourage growth. Regardless, close inspection of the ground, plants, and buds reveals what may be an underwhelming bloom, despite all this rain!

I initially had scheduled a Desert Wildflower Photography Tour for March 6. I would have typically counted on this date, but on March 6 of 2010, there was virtually nothing in flower. So I postponed the Tour until March 20. I have spent recent days in the locations I had planned to take the tour, but because most of these locations are tremendously late and possibly altogether flower-less this spring, I have canceled any plans for a Desert Wildflower Tour.

I concluded a private workshop last Sunday in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. As Ron Niebrugge and Phil Colla have already reported, Sahara Mustard (Brassica tournefortii) has radically altered the Borrego Valley landscape, stretching from Borrego Springs all the way to Salton Sea. I even found it in remote canyons and washes during my stay. Unfortunately, the spread of this plant is out of control, with millions of acres of Colorado and Sonoran Desert having already been transformed, and with many more acres at risk from this noxious and invasive species. I’ll, too, join the choir in declaring that the vast fields of wildflowers that made Borrego Valley famous may now be a thing of the past. The only real solution at this time is hand-pulling, which is not terribly effective when thousands of acres have been inundated with this devil weed. You can help! If you spot Sahara Mustard while in the field, KILL IT! The entire plant – roots and all – must be pulled, placed in a tied-off plastic bag, and properly disposed of. Simply pulling the plant and tossing it aside is not enough, as the seeds can and will still disperse from a pulled plant.

There is a possibility that things could flip quickly, as we are finally experiencing spring-like conditions throughout most of the California desert for the next week or so. Should I find a remarkable transformation out there, I may offer a short-notice one day tour. Barring this, I am currently at work on putting together a late March/early April 2010 trip to southern Death Valley’s stunning Owlshead Mountains. Only there can I guarantee spreads of wildflowers, towering sand dunes, and vast and stunning landscapes. Click here for more information about this tour.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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My last photograph of 2009: The Burning Bush

The Burning Bush, Mecca Hills Wilderness

The Burning Bush

I spent the last day of 2009 and the first few days of 2010 exploring and hiking the desert region around the Salton Sea with my wife, Shauna, and our always present companion ‘Mojave‘. I dedicated this trip to Shauna’s enjoyment (she doesn’t get out nearly enough with me), so I decided that this would be a “tourist” trip for me and one where I would focus on Shauna instead of making photographs (she appreciates these gestures :)). As a result, I did not practice much photography (digital only) but we had a great time exploring and being in awe of our beautiful desert.

The last day of 2009 found us running out of light in the Mecca Hills Wilderness, so we decided to camp for the night in one of the canyons. Like everyone else, we enjoyed the Blue Moon that rose as the decade was ending, and it felt like a joyful and fitting end to 2009 and a wonderful ushering in of 2010.

Sometime around 10:30 pm, as we enjoyed the warmth of our campfire, the glow of full moonlight on the desert landscape and the glow of our campfire on this desert shrub led me to my camera (D-SLR). Compared to working with a view camera (especially in the dark!), a D-SLR is incredibly easy to use and verify/correct exposure, and the image is complete as fast as it is conceived. I’ll be sharing a few more images from this trip over the next few posts.

I hope your 2010 is off to a beautiful start! Happy New Year!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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