Rare “Super Bloom” Is Happening in Death Valley Right Now

March 7, 2016 | Joanne Kennell

Death valley superbloom
Photo credit: Chuck Abbe/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)

A once-in-a-lifetime event.

Thanks to heavy autumn rains, something exceptionally beautiful is happening right now in Death Valley National Park — a rare super bloom of wildflowers that hasn’t been seen since 2005.

People are driving from all over to see what some experts are calling a once-in-a-lifetime event — a rare chance to see the usually dry and arid valley covered in brightly-colored flowers.

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Death Valley is one of the hottest and driest places in North America.  In fact, it holds a world record for the hottest air temperature ever recorded: 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius) on July 10, 1913.  It is also one of the lowest elevations in North America, called Badwater Basin, sitting 282 feet below sea level.  

The average annual rainfall in Death Valley is about two inches a year, and some years, it gets no rain whatsoever.  However, thanks to El Niño, the area received three rare storms in the first two weeks of October, dumping more than three inches of rain in some parts of the valley.  This was enough to trigger the growth of millions of dormant wildflower seeds.You may be wondering how long flower seeds can lay dormant in the hot desert soil, but no one really knows how long these seeds can wait for rain.  During the last super bloom of 2005, some flowers blossomed that had never been seen in the park, which indicates the seeds had been dormant for many years.

Death Valley Super bloom

This year's "super bloom" is one of the best seen in years. Image credit: U.S. National Park Service

If you decide to make the trip to Death Valley, you will predominantly see desert gold wildflower, which are large, bright yellow flowers that looks like a daisy.  This year, the flowers are growing waist high and are easily seen from the road in your car.

However, if you decide to take a trek through the valley, you will see several other species since more than 20 wildflowers bloom in the park at different elevations.  Other common flowers include purple phacelia, pink desert five-spot, white gravel ghost and several types of desert primrose.

Golden Evening Primrose, Death Valley

Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes). Credit: Dianne Milliard, U.S. National Park Service

Most of the flowers can be seen at the south end of Death Valley National Park along Badwater Road, but if you want to see them you have to go within the next few weeks.  The temperatures are starting to rise, and as they do, the flowers will fade and the blooms will move north to higher elevations, which you won’t be able to see from your car.

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