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Wildflowers put on a display for area residents
The desert around Yuma is in bloom right now, as should be obvious to anyone who has occasion to drive the roads to and from the city.
Depending on the amount and frequency of winter rainfall, the county's deserts become carpeted with purple, pink, yellow and white wildflowers. And this winter has proved to be particularly bountiful and colorful.
The Bureau of Land Management said the flowers reach full bloom from mid-March to mid-April, but BLM Yuma Field Office spokeswoman Lori Cook said that it is only a rule of thumb. An early onset of warm weather could cause the flowers to die off or lose their color earlier in usual.
"This weather is perfect for it," Cook said Thursday as temperatures were in the 70s. "But if you get two or three days of hot weather, it's going to really burn them."
As an example, she talked about the the hill across 24th Street from Yuma Regional Medical Center. This season, as in past years, it has been carpeted by desert verbena. But as she drove by the hill last weekend, after several days of temperatures approaching 90 degrees, she noticed the hill had lost much of its purplish color.
She advised area residents who plan to get out to see wildflower displays around the county to do so over the next couple of weeks.
According to the BLM, here are some of the wildflower varieties and their locations in the Yuma area:
• Desert lily or Hersperocallis undulate: Resembling the Easter lily, this white flower on a tall stem is typically found in sandy soils. The early Spanish explorers call it “ajo,” meaning garlic, for its onion-flavored bulb.
This flower can be found north of Interstate 8 on Foothills Boulevard. It can also be found at Avenue 3E and Gila Ridge Road mixed in the desert sand verbena (see below).
• Coulter's lupine or Lupinus sparsiflorus: This plant often grows in masses along roadsides. Purplish-pink to violet pea-shaped flowers are born on one-foot tall spikes. Leaves extend in a circle from a central point.
This wildflower can be found along Highway 95 and also along Martinez Lake Road.
• Desert mallow or Sphaeralcea: These delicate cup-shaped apricot to orange flowers bloom in clusters on multiple stems up to three feet tall. The leaves are covered with white hairs that can cause an eye irritation that give this plant its local name, “sore-eye poppies”.
This wildflower can be found along Highway 95.
• Desert sand verbena or Abronia villosa: A low-growing plant, the small lavender tubular flowers grow in clusters on trailing stems. This fragrant plant prefers sandy flats or dunes.
Residents can find this wildflower on the north and south sides of Interstate 8 going east and also north of Interstate 8 on Avenue 9E. This wildflower is very common this year and can be found in any other sandy area.
• California poppy or Eschscholzia california: These showy orange to gold flowers are easily recognized by their four petal poppy flowers.
This wildflower can be found along 32nd Street by the Yuma County Fairgrounds.
• Desert sunflower or Geraea canescens: These large showy white flowers are sweet-scented and grow in sandy deserts and open areas. They enjoy growing with desert sand verbena and the desert lily.
Look for this wildflower along Highway 95.
• Dune primrose or Oenothera deltoides: Actually a tall grass, this plant grows in bunches along roadsides and other disturbed areas. It is named for the three purplish spikes or awns that grow from each seed head.
This flower can be found along Fortuna Road, north of Interstate 8.
• Popcorn flower or Cryptantha augustifolia: This small, white, five-petaled flower grows in coils at the end of branches. This wildflower is called popcorn flower because the coiled stems and tiny open flowers are clustered at the top of the coil, resembling popcorn.
This flower is found in various locations, but is abundant north of Interstate 8 on Foothills Boulevard.