My, What Rains Bring to the Desert in Spring – Anza Borrego

My, What Rains Bring to the Desert in Spring – Anza Borrego

We’ve had 17 inches of rain in our inland Southern California city this rainy season. That’s a lot for us. Our nearby deserts have received about half that. Along with pleasant temps, this translates into stunning wildflower and cactus flower displays which began in February.

For locals, it’s not too late to go. We drove to Anza-Borrego State Park yesterday. We stopped at several points, walked 50-100 feet from our car, and…. amazing! See below for photos – when I know what it is I identify it….

Lower Elevation – Look for the small wonders… 

You need to stop and get out of your car — these are off S22 coming from the Salton Sea.


What a wonderful study of an ecosystem at its prime. The rain ushers in the flowers and luscious stems, which brings on pollinators and also caterpillars that munched the flowers, and sometimes entire plants. We attempted to avoid dozens of caterpillars crossing the roads. There were a number of butterflies flitting about. And San Diego entomologist Michael Klein thinks  the butterfly season should extend through the month of April due to excellent rains.

Later in Spring, Head to the Higher Elevations

The later you go in the season, head to the higher elevation to see yellow-flowered Brittlebush and the cacti are just getting started. We stopped off of Hwy S3 (Yaqui Pass Rd) at several areas, including Yaqui Point and saw the following:


  • It’s still not too late – the lush fields of brittle bush are still evident at higher altitudes, and the cacti blooms are just getting started. Joshua Tree NP should be great too.
  • Stop at the ABDNHA’s Desert Nature Center, located at 652 Palm Canyon Dr., to pick up a free flower map – but really, we found many places with wildflowers and minus crowds….
  • According to expert Michael Klein, our deserts usually have the highest butterfly activity in late February through mid-April.
  • If you live in SoCA and want to bring some of these wonders to your yard, specialty nurseries like the Living Desert Museum in Palm Desert or Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden carry native plants or sunny seed mixes – best to plant these in the fall or early winter during the rains. We’ve grown a number successfully.
About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.


  1. Linda, Colin Campbell measured 27″ of rain in Alpine so far this season. Here’s his video of Viejas Creek through his property last Feb, 22nd. This is across from the CNF office on east Alpine Blvd. Wrights Field is super green already, and the vernal pools very big indeed this year. All the best to you and Tom. George

    • Linda Richards says:

      Hi George, wow – 27 inches in Alpine – that’s wonderful. So I imagine you have lots of spadefoot toads in the vernal pools, any fairy shrimp ever sighted?

  2. Great post Linda! We did the same thing this Sunday and tried to take pictures of as many different varieties of wild flowers as we could find – it’s amazing how many there were. The desert really is alive with color this time of year.

  3. William Hayes says:

    My wife and I got out repeatedly and thoroughly enjoyed the spring bloom this year. We only wish that a heavy rainfall this month (December) might still happen, bringing out a repeat performance. Fingers crossed (but skeptical).

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