Ephemerals in Death Valley

February 26, 2016Michael WigleNPF Blog
“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” –Edgar Allen Poe

Life is always surprising.

When millions of desert ephemeral flowers wash the hottest desert in the world with a sea of color, life is shocking. The fiery place where the divide between life and death is lost, is known as California’s Death Valley National Park.

Close, yellow flowers in-sharp focus in a field amongst others

On occasion when conditions are just right, this barren landscape formed by ancient lakes and volcanoes transforms into an incredible show of life. Steady winter rainfall, cooler temperatures, and calm winds are needed to encourage dormant seeds to spring from the ground in abundance.

Thanks in part to a relatively strong El Niño, the deserts of the Southwestern United States are witnessing one of the largest wildflower seasons in the past decade.

For miles along Badwater Road the alluvial fans of the Funeral Mountains are bursting with golden yellow blooms of Desert Sunflowers, while the canyon walls are sprouting Monkeyflowers. Stretching from Furnace Creek to Ashford, Mills Ruins are some of the most incredible fields of wildflowers to be seen.

Field of numerous, yellow flowers in Death Valley National Park

This brilliant scenery encourages quiet walks amongst the wavering petals, where rarer species can be found.

The best time to go is early morning, when cooler temperatures and smaller crowds greet the serene surroundings in peace. If you plan on spending the night, register early, and register soon. Increasing daytime temperatures spark the end of this short-lived bloom.

Field of bright, yellow flowers sit in a field in front of Death Valley Mountain view

In just a few more weeks, after the hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, and bees pollinate these desert ephemerals, they will wilt and die. Laying dormant in the sandy volcanic soil their seeds will wait for the next time conditions are just right.

Why wait yourself for that moment to come again? Get out and enjoy this rare moment of sheer beauty Death Valley National Park has to offer.

It seems like life comes to an end when the eminent death of these plants begins. Yet when the moment is right, life reemerges from its shadowy grave and the cycle starts all over for a field of ephemerals in Death Valley.

Photo credits: Michael Wigle


I live in the valley just east of Death Valley , Amargosa Vallley ( elevation 2660 ) . We and Las Vegas got a lot of rain last Tuesday ( 9 Jan 2018 ) . Death Valley got some of it . Furnace Creek registered 0.46 inches that day ( NWS ) . But a quick google search didn't pop any recent speculation on what kind of effect that will have on this spring's bloom .
Is it going to happen again in 2018?

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