The Plant Man: a visit to Anza-Borrego State Park

By Steve Kawaratani

“Wildflowers aren’t meant to be cut and tamed. They’re meant to be loved & admired.” –Anthony T. Hincks

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Photos courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

Steve Kawaratani

Leaving behind our springtime visit with Cooper in Palm Desert, a literature festival in Bombay Beach and dinner with friends in Indio, we headed southeast through the Coachella Valley, towards Anza-Borrego State Park, in search of late March wildflowers. While we were likely a couple weeks late for the peak superbloom, I was confident we would find abundant desert wildflowers once we turned on S22 towards Borrego Springs, due to significant autumn and winter rainfall.

The Coachella Valley’s farmland is among the important crop-growing regions in California, known for its citrus, dates, bell peppers, lettuce and grapes. Portions of the highway are filled with the musky scent of marijuana, legally grown in desert greenhouses. The vast areas of cultivation are irrigated in part with Colorado River water. Due to past drought and increased population demands, water is a major conservation issue with adjacent states and Mexico, and the reason the shrinking Salton Sea is no longer replenished with fresh water.

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Desert Badlands on the road to Anza-Borrego State Park

As we entered the desert foothills, the vast arid region transformed into a badlands, a type of dry terrain that has been deeply eroded by water and wind. These areas can be appreciated at the many off highway viewpoints, where steep slopes and minimal vegetation create an uncluttered, but artistic backdrop.

Entering the Anza-Borrego State Park, we were treated to the beauty of desert sunflowers, purple sand verbena, desert lilies and countless other wildflowers that transformed the landscape into a floral oasis. The desert’s unique climate, coupled with abundant winter and spring rain, nurtured a remarkable diversity of blossoms in the desert. We took our time to wander through this majestic display, looking for other botanical treasures like the majestic ocotillo.

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Sand verbena thrives in sandy soil just off the highway

As we delighted in the beauty of the wildflowers, we stayed on designated paths to respect the fragile ecosystem; one must be mindful of the delicate balance that sustains these remarkable wildflowers. By leaving their habitat undisturbed, we ensure the survival and breathtaking displays for future travelers.

As April greets us with its warmth, nature’s magical carpet still unfolds in Anza-Borrego, but not for long. Only a few hours from Laguna, the drive is worth experiencing the desert bursting with the breathtaking beauty of March wildflower blooms that will surely return after our next rainy winter and spring. See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani, a regular columnist with Stu News Laguna, has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula with Catharine and Loki. He can be reached at plantman2@mac.com or 949.494.5141.


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