Super Blooms Caused By Unexpected Rains Bring Flowers and Flower Spectators to Southern California

After roughly eight years of drought, uncharacteristically high rains struck deserts across southern California in the fall and winter seasons of 2018. A technicolor bloom now carpets the desert region, also known as a “super bloom.”

This year’s super bloom can be found in areas across the southern region, including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Antelope Valley, Diamond Valley Lake, Carrizo Plain National Monument, Walker Canyon, Griffith Park, Mojave Trails and near the Desert Lily Sanctuary.

According to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s Nature Center Assistant Manager, Kathy DeMunck, the park has not seen this kind of a bloom since 2005. 

While super blooms in years past were a result of numerous factors, ecologists are attributing this most recent super bloom to the high precipitation levels over the past year in southern California. In Lake Elsinore’s Walker Canyon, one of the super bloom hot spots this season, the average rainfall is roughly 12 inches; however, over the past year the region has received over 23 inches of rain, according to the Weather Currents website.

Because of the generally dry climates of southern California, these desert regions are primarily inhabited by annuals—short-lived plants that lie dormant in the soil and sprout once the climate provides optimum ability to germinate and reproduce. The combination of these annuals and an unusually heavy rainy season this past fall and winter explains the abundance of super blooms.

In response to these eye-catching blooms, people are flocking to these regions by the thousands to bear witness to the displays before they disappear. While most of the super bloom areas are year-round tourist attractions, the significantly higher turnout this season may pose a threat to the vegetation itself. Amongst the super bloom selfies and travel guides flooding the internet, cities like Lake Elsinore have posted updated guides offering tips to visitors of how to conduct themselves in order to best sustain the natural flora. Common suggestions include staying on established trails to avoid trampling vegetation and not picking the flowers.

“I think it is really important…for people to realize that there are thousands of other people going to these sensitive areas as well and that little actions can have big impacts,” said restoration ecologist Chris Berry. “On its face, picking one flower is not the end of the world but when literally over 100,000 people are visiting a single bloom in a weekend, if only a fraction of those people are picking flowers it can definitely have an impact.”

The influx of ecotourism is also having a considerable impact on the people that reside in the super bloom regions. City officials had to shut down Walker Canyon to the public as a result of grid-lock on interstates and city streets, deeming the traffic congestion a public safety emergency. As the blooms continue to draw in visitors, cities may be forced to put more procedures in place to protect these wildlife regions.