Shades of purple, pink, orange, and yellow are blanketing Southern California’s desert hillsides, and people are rushing out in droves to see the poppies and other wildflowers before they disappear. An unusually wet winter in the area has brought about a rare event that many are calling the “super bloom.”
Of course, other names are also being tossed around, such as poppy mania, poppy-palooza, and poppy apocalypse.
Different species growing among the poppies include Bigelow’s Monkey Flower, purple Sand Verbena, white and yellow Evening Primrose and desert lilies.
The Science of Super Blooms
Although historically a rare sight, the last super bloom was only two years ago. Before 2017, though, such vivid colors had not been seen on the typically barren mountainside of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for over a decade!
‘Super blooms’ are caused by plenty of rain followed by drought conditions, which according to NASA, kills off invasive grasses. As a result, seeds dormant for many years in the desert sand are finally able to germinate.
As to be expected, people are desperately trying to snap pictures of the blossoms because they don’t know when or if they’ll get to see them again, leading to the use of another term to describe the event: “flowergeddon.”
It’s been bad – really, really bad – in the Lake Elsinore region where the most vibrant blooms are. The community was overwhelmed with between 50,000-100,000 camera-wielding members of the “poppyrazzi” (I just thought of that one!) each day last weekend.
One visitor told the Associated Press that plastic bottles and discarded coffee cups are littering the flower fields now. Unfortunately, many folks can’t seem to handle enjoying nature while giving it the respect it deserves.
Authorities had no choice but to shut down access to the flowering hillsides of Walker Canyon after a traffic jam 20 miles long formed on Sunday afternoon.
People fainted in the heat. Flower gazers ignored common sense and ventured off the hiking trails with their selfie sticks, twisting their ankles and trampling precious poppies along the way. A rattlesnake even bit a dog in one of the fields.
It was chaos. Residents of the area were furious after the gridlock blocked them from accessing their homes.
It Won’t Last Forever
Unfortunately for them, the poppy shutdown has been lifted, and Walker Canyon was reopened to the masses Monday morning when authorities realized they couldn’t keep sightseers away from the natural phenomenon.
City councilors and traffic control engineers are frantically trying to find a solution to the frenzy that will no doubt ensue next weekend.
After all, time is running out for the ‘super bloom.’ The hungry caterpillars are hatching, and the flowers only last a few weeks before dying off, vanishing once again for who knows how long.
For more on rare desert blooms, read Garden Culture’s feature on Faultline Farm!
Featured image courtesy of Sonny Nate Slip’s YouTube video.