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Mid-March may be the sweet spot for spectacular wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Plant enthusiasts catalog wildflowers blooming at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

To hear Ernie Cowan tell it, 2017 may be one for the books when it comes to wildflower blooms at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in eastern San Diego County.

With a record 5 inches of rain in the last two months (that’s a season total in some years), he’s expecting spectacular shows of plants like desert lilies, verbena and dune primroses.

It’s not a slam dunk, but peak blooms at the desert floor are predicted for mid-March through early April. 

Your chance to see Southern California’s epic wildflower bloom is running out. Here’s where to go »

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A plant called milk vetch is blooming this wildflower season in the Fish Creek area of Anza-Borrego
A plant called milk vetch is blooming this wildflower season in the Fish Creek area of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
(Steve Bier / Anza-Borrego Foundation)

“Germination is happening,” says the president of the Anza-Borrego Foundation, a 50-year-old nonprofit that partners with the state park. “If you drive through parts of the desert, you’ll see carpets of green. Plants are growing, and growing well.”

Green, of course, is good, but super-hot temperatures and raking winds could ruin everything.

But to hit the sweet spot for wildflowers, or close to it, make travel plans now. A “pervasive” bloom — one with carpets of purple verbena, red-tipped ocotillos or large white desert primrose — should arrive at low elevations in late February, Cowan says.

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You can expect to see great blooms of desert lilies in the Badlands area of the park too.

In a previous bloom year, desert primrose bloom along Hendy Canyon Road.
In a previous bloom year, desert primrose bloom along Hendy Canyon Road.
(Steve Bier / Anza-Borrego Foundation)
Fishhook cactus, in a previous year, blooms in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Fishhook cactus, in a previous year, blooms in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
(Ashley Kvitek / Anza-Borrego Foundation)

Peak time comes later starting in mid-March and lasting three or four weeks — also a time when the park can become really crowded. And the blooms start at sea level but will continue (conditions permitting) up to 6,000 feet in the Laguna Mountains.

Cowan recommends seeking out places on foot like Hawk Canyon or Surprise Canyon, likely to be less crowded than the popular Borrego Palm Canyon Trail. For more places to go, stop in at the visitor center on the west end of Palm Canyon inside the park.

For up-to-date information on wildflower blooms, stop at the visitor center, call the Wildflower Hotline at (760) 767-4684 or check in at to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s website.

If you want to take a camera-friendly tour, join Cowan from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. March 18 for an all-day photo workshop. Cost is $155 per person and requires advance registration. Info: Desert Wildflower Photography Workshop

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travel@latimes.com

@latimestravel


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