California Wildflower-bloom Experts Available for Interviews

Researchers can comment on topics ranging from why the bloom is especially rich this year to how it impacts bee populations

California’s bloom of wildflowers is especially rich this year. Photo credit: Sean Nealon, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – California’s bloom of wildflowers is especially rich this year, the result of the desert receiving more rain than usual since December. The “super bloom” of wildflowers has transformed the desert into a panorama of colors.

The University of California, Riverside has several experts who can comment on the bloom:

Richard Minnich, a professor of geography, has written a book on California’s wildflowers.  He can be reached at (951) 827-5515.

“The southern California deserts are having the finest spring bloom since the ‘once in a lifetime’ bloom of 2005. In this world of invasive grasses and mustards that outcompete our native wildflowers, this year’s outstanding bloom is not only a result of heavy rainfall this winter, but also the collapse of invasive species during drought over the past 5 years.  The best blooms often occur in the first wet winter following protracted drought, when there is limited interference from sparse exotic annuals.  This year’s flowers are ankle to knee high so far this year, but not as tall as the hip high flowers of 2005. The species diversity near Palm Springs in the northern Coachella Valley is outstanding with an abundance of desert aster, desert dandelion, desert chicory, Parishes poppy, sand verbena, phacelia, lupine and many others.”

Cameron Barrows is an associate research ecologist in the Center for Conservation Biology.  He can be reached at (760) 834-0934.

“After five years of drought the deserts are in bloom again. Seeds stored in the desert sands for 5, 10, or even 30 years have responded to the wetter than average conditions creating carpets of yellow, white and purple flowers – if you know where to look. The bloom has begun, but will likely continue for the next weeks with waves of new color as each species takes its turn. The flowers will then begin blooming at increasingly higher elevations, ensuring colors across our otherwise brown desert landscape for the next month or more.”

Douglas Yanega is a senior museum scientist in the Entomology Research Museum.  He can be reached at (951) 827-4315.

Yanega notes that despite the heavy rains this past winter, finding a lot of bees on the wildflowers this season is unlikely. This is because there is a yearlong delay in the emergence of bee eggs. Since last year was dry, he says, a lot of bees are not likely going to be emerging this season. “There are going to be a lot of wildflowers this year, but the bee populations are going to be pretty thin. It’s next year – if we have a lot of rain again – that we should have a ton of bees.”

Quinn McFrederick is an assistant professor of entomology and a bee expert.  He can be reached at (951) 827-5817.

“After the long drought, the rain in from the last two winters should provide much needed respite for our native and managed bee communities. There are many desert bees that are specialists, which means that they only collect pollen from a limited number of plants. For bees that specialize on plants that only bloom when it rains this should be a very good year. For honey bee keepers, the abundance of flowers should result in healthier bees and large honey crops.”

Andrew Sanders is a senior museum scientist in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences and curator of the UCR Herbarium.  He specializes in the plants of Southern California.  He can be reached at  (951) 827-3601.

“Flowering is currently about at peak in the low desert and western Riverside County, below c. 2000 ft. elevation.  Flower density is irregular, but generally at least OK to good with some areas quite showy. Higher elevation areas and places farther north, for e.g., the Mojave Desert, are not really flowering much yet (Death Valley is low, though northern).  The duration of the flowering will depend on future temperatures and rainfall, which are hard to predict.  There is already a lot of moisture in the soil most places, so the recent heat (into the 90s on the low desert) seems not to have done any damage and probably pushed flowering along a bit.  With enough soil moisture, flowering will continue in the face of higher temperatures, as long as it doesn’t get too hot.”

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-6050
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Additional Contacts

Sean Nealon
Tel: (951) 827-1287

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