Desert in Bloom
Southern Utah isn’t typically known for its wildflowers, but one particular family of plants puts on an annual show that rivals the rocks in brilliance and diversity of hues. While snow still lingers in the mountains, the lower elevations are bursting with color as a plethora of cacti are currently in bloom. For most of the year, the abundant low-growing prickly pear and hedgehog cacti hardly stand out in a landscape chock-full of sharp, spiny plants that collectively make cross-country hiking miserable. Right now though, it is hard not to take notice of these hardy plants. So electric are the colors that simply keeping ones eyes on the road is difficult given the rainbow peeking out from the desert scrub:
Florescent pink Beehive Cactus (Escobaria vivipara) flowers, San Francisco Mountains, Utah
Claret Cup Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) flowers, San Francisco Mountains, Utah
Beautiful orange, almost salmon-y, flowers of the Desert Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha), Pipe Spring National Monument, Arizona. This is the first time I’ve seen flowers this color on a prickly pear…perhaps some sort of hybrid?
Dense spines and bright pink flowers of the Mojave Prickly Pear (Opuntia erinacea), Beaver County, Utah
A stately row of pink Desert Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha) flowers, Washington County, Utah
Red and yellow flowers of the Desert Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha), Washington County, Utah
Engelmann’s Hedgehog (Echinocereus engelmannii) flower, Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, Utah
Electric pink flowers of the Golden Prickly Pear (Opuntia aurea), Washington County, Utah. I realize it looks like I just jacked up the saturation on this photo, but the vibrancy of these flowers is truly that stunning, almost tropical in nature.
While the cacti may be the main event, a supporting cast of other wildflowers contribute as well:
Mylitta Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta) butterfly on Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata), Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, Utah
Straggling Mariposa Lily (Calochortus flexuosus), Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, Utah
Desert Four-O’Clock (Mirabilis multiflora), Pipe Spring National Monument, Arizona