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Visitors Enjoy Spring Wildflowers of the Sonoran Desert

lupine field picacho peakSpring in Arizona is the season residents and visitors alike wait for in eager anticipation. The desert terrain bursts into a canvas of unimaginable beauty as delicate desert wildflowers blanket the landscape. It doesn't take much of an excuse and is well worth a day to escape to the southern sections of the state to partake in this visual feast and the Arizona State Parks offer some of the most beautiful locations to view the lavish colors and textures of spring.

Rising up from the desert floor and looking much like camel's hump off on the horizon, Picacho Peak has long held the interest of travelers to the Sonoran Desert. Thousands of visitors make the trek to the small but venerable state park every year to see spring's spectacular bounty.

In March, the Peak's craggy slopes are softened by a matting of verdant new growth and covered in splashes of orange and yellow, the large swaths of the Mexican Gold Poppy visible from the freeway.

The obviously volcanic origins of the formation are recently understood to be eroded rock from a lava flow. Desert Chickory PoppiesThe dark, rugged terrain makes an interesting contrast to the burst of color carpeting the ground. Coulters's Lupine, desert chicory (shown right) and wild heliotrope mix with the fields of poppies or hide beneath the shelter of rock and cactus.

The progression of blooms varies throughout the spring and early summer months, as well as by location. Throughout March and early April brittlebush, fairy duster, globe mallow, and penstemon will be in bloom.

By mid-April the abundant variety of cactus begins to bloom, beginning with hedgehog cactus, cholla, ocotillo and prickly pear. The season of cactus blooms extends through May and ends as the saguaros bloom in June.

Other locations celebrated for wildflower treks and adventures include Catalina State Park located at the base of the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson and the Lost Dutchman State Park east of Phoenix. Places to learn more about Sonoran Desert flora and fauna include the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Phoenix and the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson.

About Picacho Peak State Park:
The location of the only Civil War battle to have taken place in Arizona is near Picacho Peak State Park. Military re-enactments of the Battle of Picacho Pass and other Civil War battles occurring in the Arizona/New Mexico Territory are held at the park during March. There is a network of trails throughout the park, from easy to difficult ratings, including the two-mile Hunter Trail that winds to the top of the peak for a spectacular view of the surrounding Sonoran Desert. In addition to quite pleasurable hiking, picnic ramadas and camp sites are available. Picacho Peak State Park is located off I-10, on exit 219, 60 miles south of Phoenix, and 40 miles north of Tucson. For more information call 520-466-3183.

For an ongoing report on the state's wildflowers including photographs from each of the parks, visit the Arizona State Park's Ranger Cam.

Article and photos by Terree Duncan. Information regarding the state park system courtesy of Arizona State Parks.


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