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Fall Rains Bringing Color To Death Valley National Park

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Fields of Desert Gold are spreading across parts of Death Valley National Park, such as this patch along the southern Badwater Road/NPS, D. Milliard

It's only early January, yet the colors starting to sprout in Death Valley National Park are an indication that this year's bloom in the park could be spectacular.

The park's wildflower bloom is heavily dependent on fall rains, and last fall produced torrential rainfalls in mid-October that swamped many parks of the park. While Scotty's Castle, which was damaged by flooding from those storms, remains closed indefinitely, the prospect of a wildflower spectacular in the coming months offers plenty of incentive to visit the park. Here's the wildflower report from the park released on Wednesday:

Closeup of Desert Gold/NPS, D. Milliard

We’re seeing patches of Desert Gold (Geraea canescens). Actual fields of flowers on the black volcanic rocks northeast of Shoreline Butte on the Badwater Road! Definitely more spots of yellow than last week. Brown-eyed Evening Primrose (Camissonia claviformis) can be found throughout the lower elevations.

Sand verbena (Abronia villosa) is blooming down south on the Badwater Road, and Caltha-Leaved Phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia) and Purple Mat (Nama demissum) are blooming on the alluvial fans in the Artist’s Drive area and in the southern canyons of the Black Mountains.

I’ve seen a couple of Mohavea (Mohavea breviflora) at Natural Bridge and the East Entrance to the park. There are lots of Turtleback (Psathirotes ramosissima) blooming along Highway 190 east of Zabriskie Point and in some canyons of the Funeral Mountains. Acton Encelia (Encelia actonii) can be found on the North Highway between Titus Canyon and Mesquite Campground, as well as in the Funeral Mountains east of Furnace Creek.

I saw my first Notch-leafed Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata) of the year at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. The Owlshead Mountains seem to be the hot spot right now. In addition to all of the flowers found elsewhere, sprucebush (Peucephyllum schottii), golden evening primrose (Oenothera brevipes) and desert star (Monoptilon bellioides) have started blooming there.

Some areas of the park were gifted with a bit of welcome moisture at Christmas, with scattered rain and snow showers throughout the day. We received .14 inches of rain here at Furnace Creek yesterday, and more precipitation is predicted throughout the area for this week, too. Keep a sharp lookout and get out of your car and walk for the best chance of finding some of these early season flowers.

Patch of Turtleback blooming in Death Valley National Park/NPS, D. Milliard

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[envy]  Oh, I wish I could go!


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