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Nature Watch: Everything from Armadillos to Zebra Butterflies

Sudden Color

It's March, and the hotlines are ringing music to the ears of wildflower lovers in the Southwest. This spring the area will see a lot of action.

The canyons, arroyos, flats, peaks, and washes of the Southwest depend on rainfall in the autumn and winter for their spring colors. If sufficient moisture arrives, these habitats can offer some of the most spectacular early-spring wildflower displays on the continent.

In California's Death Valley National Park and the deserts of Nevada, the wildflower show has yet to begin, though people are hopeful of good things to come. Meanwhile, the spectacular Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in another part of southern California is starting to generate lots of vernal color, with an excellent wildflower and shrub flower display in the formative stages. Dune Primrose, Desert Sunflower, Chuparosa, Ocotillo, Arizona Lupine, Desert Lily, Brown-eyed Primrose, Brittlebush, and carpets of verbenas are among the first of the desert flowers to bloom.

But the real excitement now is in southern Arizona. Only on rare occasions does the Sonoran Desert there get the necessary rainfall to produce a spring wildflower spectacle. The last super spring occurred in 2001, though this year looks to be a good one. Picacho Peak, Lost Dutchman State Park, the Pinal Pioneer Parkway, and scores of other wildflower hotspots are ablaze this year with an outstanding array of early spring blossoms, from Mexican Gold Poppy, Desert Globe Mallow, Coulter's Lupine, Brittlebush, and Desert Star to Bladderpod, Mustard Evening-Primrose, Wild Hyacinth, and Chuparosa.

On the Web, the Desert Wildflower Watch offers up-to-date information for spring blooms in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. Click here to visit that site. The Theodore Payne Foundation's site provides extensive links too. Click here to visit that site.

A Google search of "wildflower hotline" will turn up a number of other sites as well.