Spring Wildflowers

Spring poppies and other wildflowers are in bloom and all over at Picacho Peak State Park on March 5.

Spring is here and wonderful displays of wildflowers can be found all over Southern Arizona and beyond. 

Here are just a few flowers you can spot thriving in the desert landscape at the moment, along with some info so you'll know just what you're looking at. 

Mexican Gold Poppies

When do they bloom? From about March until May

Characteristics: Orange cup-shaped flowers that grow from a plant with fern-like leaves. It's a subspecies of the California Poppy, and it's pretty difficult to tell the two apart, according to a guide by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center in Texas. 

Fun fact: Thanks to a hearty amount of rain in the late winter months, you can find extremely brilliant displays of wildflowers all over Southern Arizona. However, if you're looking to find a blanketed field of poppies you should try visiting places in the Tucson Mountain District that are lower in elevation, according to an Arizona Daily Star article by Doug Kreutz. Take a look at our list on where other amazing wildflowers are here. Just remember not to trample them 😬

Brittlebush

“Most of the annual wildflowers will continue to bloom as long as the soil remains moist,” says expert Mark Dimmitt.

When do they bloom? You can find flowers blooming from late winter to early spring. 

Characteristics: During the non-blooming seasons the brittlebush is an unassuming little shrub hanging out along slopes and hillsides. But as spring approaches, long stalks will grow out of the plant and small yellow flowers will blossom. 

Fun fact: This shrub is a member of the sunflower family 🌻. Read more brittlebush facts from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum here

Saguaro Flowers

Saguaros are beginning to bloom in the Catalina Foothills, Tucson Mountain Park and other areas around Tucson.

When do they bloom?  Peak bloom is from early May to early June. But don't let that timeframe fool you. You can find saguaro blooms for more than half of the year, according this Arizona Daily Star article. Some years, flowers were spotted as early as mid-April, and last year were seen as late as November.

Characteristics: Saguaro flowers have brilliant white petals and thick yellow pollen in the center. These blooms grow on the top of saguaros and are described as having a pungently sweet melon scent. 

Fun fact: Lesser long-nosed bats and saguaro flowers have co-evolved together — making them a match in pollination heaven. The night blooming schedule of these beautiful buds is an ideal time for bats, who use their brush-tipped tongues to extract large quantities of nectar from the flower. The bright white visibility of these flowers also makes it easy for the bat to spot as they move along the dark desert sky. 

Lupine

Desert lupines grow along the Nature Trail at Catalina State Park. Trails, a gift shop and campgrounds are just some of the park's amenities.

When do they bloom? March to May

Characteristics: There several species of lupine you can find in the Southwest. Most however are identified by their their small purple-blue flowers and slender stocks. 

Fun fact: Lupines are a member of the pea family. 

Purple Owl's Clover

This grassy field in Catalina State Park was peppered with orange and purple wildflowers. 

When do they bloom? From early March to May. P.S. We've spotted a number of great displays of this flower at Catalina State Park.

Characteristics: A bright purple-pink flower with thready leaves that grows about a foot tall. It shares the same classification as the Indian Paintbrush plant

Fun Fact: Purple Owl's Clovers are hemiparasites, which means it can use its root system to take nutrients from other plants, according to the California Native Plant Society