The 40-Year Bloom

At the risk of boring you to the point of not revisiting our site again, I’m going to chance it and present an update to the magnificent flowering desert that many old-timers (older than me) are calling a “40-year bloom.” The bluebonnets have been blooming since February, and are still marvelous, reaching heights of over 4 feet…just imagine.

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In the past couple of weeks, the addition of many cactus blooms has only added to the already fabulous weave of colors across the desert. One of the most impressive is the yellow bloom of the Texas Rainbow cactus. The “rainbow” comes from the bands of color caused by annual growth rings:

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The yellow and red blooms of the purple pricklypear are appearing everywhere:

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The brilliant fuchsia color of the strawberry pitaya is more rare, but easily spotted blooming among the yellows and greens of the desert:

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The orange/red brilliance of the claret cup cactus is found mostly above 4000′ in rocky areas:

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One of the most dramatic plants in the desert is the ocotillo, not a cactus, but sporting sharp spines and brilliant reddish/orange blossoms, sometimes growing to heights of over 15 feet:

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When it comes to flowers, the desert marigolds are still in full bloom, forming a carpet across the usually dry desert floor:

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Earlier in the spring, the indian paintbrush was conspicuously missing from the landscape, now making an appearance in secluded places:

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Out in the more open plains, the prairie verbena waves in the wind:

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Hiding in the endless sea of desert marigolds are the wonderful clumps of blackfoot daisies:

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These rainbow cactus blooms are safely tucked in among the lethal spines of the lechuguilla:

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A last look at the beautiful blooms of the strawberry pitaya and purple pricklypear, to be enjoyed for weeks to come:

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And so, the “40-year bloom” reaches its peak, but is by no means done. More cactus are putting on bloom pods in preparation for an encore of magnificence in May and June, so stay tuned for more of God’s glory.

It’s Spring in Big Bend

Word on the street is that the desert is in full bloom, so yesterday Jodie & I had to get out and see for ourselves. Truth is, the reports were far understated!  We have been spending springtime in the Big Bend of Texas for 44 years, and never have we seen the desert so green, so lush, and so spectacular!

On the way to Big Bend National Park we stopped along the highway to enjoy the carpet of flowers that laid out before us like a sea of yellow, blending into green grasses growing high onto the slopes of the low hills…punctuated by the cotton-white blooms of the yucca. The pole in the photo is a remnant of early power lines that reached from Marathon to outlying ranches, running along the fence lines that followed the early unpaved roadways:

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With Santiago Peak looming in the low clouds, the marigolds seem to glow in the soft light:

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More colors mix in with the splendor:

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As we head south along the main park road, the bluebonnets form a gauntlet of blues and greens for miles, unlike anything we’ve ever seen here:

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Along the road to Dagger Flats, the bluebonnets mix with other splashes of color along the dry creek drainages, far from the roadway:

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Officially lupinus havardii, these bluebonnets grow 3-4 feet high, much larger than their smaller cousins familiar to the hill country and north Texas. Here, a variation I call “albino,” are solid white bluebonnets that appear sporadically in with the more common blue colors:

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Shadowed by the ocotillo, with its green leaves, thorns and orange-red seed pods:

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Unknown purple blossoms share the ground cover with yellows, pinks and whites:

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Common prickly pear are exploding with yellow blossoms, attracting indespensible bees to do their pollenation dance:

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More prickly pear, shadowed by the creosote bush, so named for the creosote odor released by crushing its green leaves, with its small yellow blossoms:

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The deep crimson blossoms of the strawberry hedgehog are just magnificent:

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The delicate reddish maroon bell-shaped flowers of Potts Mammillaria only grow to a diameter of about 1/2″, but are a treasure to find:

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More prickly pear and strawberry cactus blossoms:

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Conspicuously missing this year is the indian paintbrush, these the only two blooms we found on our outing:

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The undulating dry drainages snaking through the hills are literally flowing with motion in the wind, here far from their normal habitat along the roadways:

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More lilac along the way home:

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All that is left to say, on this Easter Sunday, is how great is God’s Arboretum!