It’s been all over the news, yes, Death Valley is in bloom! A rare “super bloom” as you have likely heard it called. So, being fortunate enough to live just a few hours away, I made some trips out there to experience it (along with many other SoCal citizens). Yes, it really is quite spectacular. I’ve spent a lot of time in Death Valley, but never have I seen it even remotely so beautiful. What is typically a dry and desolate place is now quite literally carpeted with wildflowers (at least, if you look in the right places).

Mostly the bloom is all thanks to a big storm that rolled through in late October last year, which dropped 3.5 inches of rain in just 5 hours. That’s 150% of the annual rainfall Death Valley normally gets, in less than a quarter of a day! Aubrey and I actually experienced that storm, not in Death Valley, but while driving through St. George, UT. The skies unloaded so much rain and hail so quickly that we couldn’t see the front of the car we were driving. Four months later, thanks to ample February sunshine, the desert is thanking the weather gods with a truly spectacular display of flowers.

The pictures featured in the news blurbs I’ve seen really only focus on one species: Desert Gold. But, there are so many more! My favorite is Sand Verbena, a beautiful carpet like plant with incredibly fragrant pink flowers. The best part? They grow in the sand, so you can wriggle your toes in the sand as you delight in that rich perfume. In these same sandy environs you can find another strange plant (if you’re lucky, and go where no one else goes): Cooper’s Broomrape. This strange plant is actually a parasite, which steals its nourishment from the roots of other plants, rather than using leaves like everyone else (thanks to my friend and fellow desert rat & photographer Michael Gordon for the ID).

Not much more to the story, so I’ll let the pictures say it from here. While most of these flowers are on their way out by now, there is plenty more happening, and going to happen, in the coming weeks at higher elevations. It’s not too late to see it, yet! Read the latest reports.

Images © 2016 Floris van Breugel. Licensing questions? Contact me.

Click images for larger pop-up view!

Desert Gold, Super Bloom, Death Valley National Park

Spring Emergence : Prints Available

A lonely Desert Gold flower finds a foothold in the dry desert of California's Death Valley National Park.

Desert Gold Macro, Super Bloom, Death Valley National Park

Flowershine : Prints Available

A Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) blooms with Rock Daisies (Perityle emori) in the background.

Desert Gold, Super Bloom, Death Valley

Desert Gold : Prints Available

Once every decade or so, El Niño rains bring enough rain to Death Valley for the flowers to emerge en masse. This image shows a dense stand of Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) during the 2016 'super bloom' with a view of the mostly dry Lake Manly in the distance.

Desert Gold in Alluvial Fan, Super Bloom, Death Valley National Park

Watercolors : Prints Available

Desert Gold flowers bloom in an alluvial fan in Death Valley National Park, taken during the 2016 'super bloom'.

Phacelia, Super Bloom, Death Valley National Park

The Desert Blues : Prints Available

A diverse array of flowers bloom in one of Death Valley's alluvial fans. Flowers pictured here include Phacelia (blue; Phacelia crenulata), Desert Gold (yellow; Geraea canescens), Rock Daisies (white; Perityle emori), and Brown-Eyed Evening Primrose (white; Camissonia claviformis). I took this image during the 2016 'super bloom'.

Desert Five Spot, Super Bloom, Death Valley National Park

Desert Five Spot : Prints Available

A beautiful Desert Five Spot (Eremalche rotundifolium) blooms in California's Death Valley National Park.

Evening-Primrose, Super Bloom, Death Valley National Park

Desert Rose Garden : Prints Available

Acres of Golden Evening-Primrose (Camissonia brevipes) bloom along the southern reaches of Death Valley National Park during the 2016 'super bloom'.

Sand Verbena and Dunes, Super Bloom, Death Valley National Park

Blooming Sands : Prints Available

Sand Verbena (pink; Abronia villosa) and Brown-Eyed Evening Primrose (white; Camissonia claviformis) bloom at the base of some sand dunes in California's Death Valley National Park during the 2016 'super bloom'.

Cooper's Broomrape, Super Bloom, Death Valley National Park

Cooper's Broomrape : Prints Available

A rare Cooper's Broomrape (Orobanche cooperi) emerges from the sand. The broomrape is a parasite; having no leaves, it draws its nourishment from the roots of other plants.

Sand Verbena and Dunes, Super Bloom, Death Valley National Park

Desert Perfume : Prints Available

Prolific pink Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa) blooms at the base of these dunes in California's Death Valley National Park during the 2016 'super bloom'.

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8 Comments to “Life in the Valley of Death”

  1. This just in: I am also a sand verbana guy, or so it seems! The display in “Desert Bloom” is mind-blowing to say the least.

    I am sure this was just incredible to take in and enjoy while there. The images do a great job of conveying the complex landscape and delicate ecosystem; both the vast, harsh environment DV is and the diversity of its flora that comes to life only every so often. “The Desert Blues” does it especially well, imho.

    Great job, Floris!!

  2. What a terrific set! The single flower in Spring Emergence really has poignancy and symbolism; Watercolors and The Desert Blues are particularly excellent too. And the Cooper’s Broomrape is sure a neat organism.

  3. Dave Katz says:

    Excellent images Floris. Love this post!!

  4. A great set of images, Floris! I was awed by the extensive fields of golden evening primrose near the Amargosa crossing but never found myself or put myself there in good light. A great image you got from there, too. Looking forward to more color and perfume tomorrow!

  5. Thanks folks for the kind words!

    Michael – I was incredibly fortunate with the lighting on the primrose scene. I was headed back home in the mid morning and just happened to pass that display when there was some miraculous hazy backlight. Enjoy it out there.. I must find some time go again!

  6. Guy Tal says:

    Beautiful work, Floris! Sorry I didn’t know you were there, it would have been nice to catch up. Looking forward to seeing you again in Moab.

  7. Thanks Guy! It was a world wind tour for me, trying to take in as much of the fragrance and sights as I could with what little time I could spare. I’m glad you an Michael Gordon were able to experience the blooms as well – I absolutely loved your sand verbena / creosote branch image. I’m really looking forward to catching up in Moab!

  8. Amazing images and very useful information. It is on my list to visit Death Valley for photography. thank you for sharing.