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Wildflowers blooming this year after rains
BARSTOW - Visitors to the sand dunes and desert lands around Barstow can see something they haven't seen for years: blossoming flowers.
Area national parks are seeing wildflower blossoms that they haven't experienced since 2005, said Linda Slater, a park ranger at the Mojave National Preserve.
"It already is a good year for wildflowers," she said. "Compared to last year, it's a really good year."
Some flowers such as the yellow-petaled Evening Primrose are most visible in the lower elevations of the preserve now. Joshua Trees and some species of cacti will likely bloom in the coming weeks, she said. She said the preserve has seen about 200 visitors per day at its Kelso Depot Visitor Center a substantial increase over last year at this time last year.
"Everybody's asking about flowers," she said. "We're seeing a lot more people camping around the preserve."
She said she expects the wildflower bloom to reach its height in the coming weeks and end sometime in May. This year's rains have caused flowers to spring this year where they were not last.
"Basically what we've had is one decent soaking rainfall every month," she said. "That'll produce a decent bloom."
In Death Valley National Park, wildflowers are also blooming now, said Charlie Callagan, a naturalist with the park. He said the one and a half inches of rain the park received last year wasn't enough to produce the spectacular blooms for which the area is known. Still, visitors in search of fields of flowers are filling up the park's campgrounds and motels.
"This is probably one of the better years we're seen since 1998 and 2005," he said. "This is probably the third best year we've had in decades."
Anthony Chavez, a rangeland management specialist with the Barstow office of the Bureau of Land Management, however, predicts a typical year for wildflowers in the region.
"You have wildflower blooms, but I wouldn't consider this a spectacular year by any means," he said. "But anything's better than last year."
He said the wildflowers many people think of are annual plants such as Desert Marigolds, Sand Verbinas, Native Phacelia and Popcorn Flowers, which complete their life cycle in one growing season and die after flowering. Periennel plants produce seeds every year and last more than one growing season.
Chavez was in the Ord Mountains Thursday gathering samples of annually flowering plants and found 784 pounds of vegetative material this year. BLM crews found no evidence of annually flowering plant growth last year at this time due to the severe drought, he said.
He said that if annual wildflowers haven't already bloomed or begun to bloom than they won't this season. He said this weekend's projected rains won't make any difference.
"Once an annual plant has germinated, you can pour an ocean of water on it but it's not going to grow any taller," Chavez said.
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Examples of flowers native to the area
• Sand Verbina, bright pink flowers two to three inches wide
• Desert Marigolds, blight yellow flowers 10 to 30 inches tall
• Popcorn flowers: small white 1 inch tall flowers
• Wooly Daisy, tiny golden-yellow flowers 4 inches tall