Image courtesy of Joshua Tree National Park
Hikers in the Lake Havasu region love wildflowers. Let’s face it, who doesn’t? The desert, at first glance, can seem like a barren, sandy wasteland of cacti and rocks. However, with a little rain and a little sunshine, Arizona’s desert flowers come to life. Desert wildflowers, tiny little miracles of nature that remain hidden much of the year, will come alive and burst with color and aroma in the springtime (and sometimes after the monsoon season in the summer). But beware: there’s one pretty flower you’ll never want to pick.
This spring is likely to be a very good blooming season, following an El Nino weather pattern that delivered fall and winter rains to much of the region. Some are calling it a “super bloom,” especially in Death Valley, perhaps the best wildflower year since 2005, a banner season deemed the best in 50 years.
This is the year to plan a series of outings during the next few months in search of wildflowers as they progress from low to high elevations. It might also be a good time to invest in a field guide to western wildflowers so you will know what you are viewing.
That’s especially important when it comes to the scorpion weed. More on that in a moment.
Margo Bartlett Pesek of the Las Vegas Review-Journal advises, “Look for early wildflowers along the highways toward the Colorado River, such as the scenic roads from U.S. Highway 95 through Nelson and Eldorado Canyon, through Searchlight to Cottonwood Cove and through the mountains down to Laughlin. Roadside flowers on highways paralleling the river south of Laughlin and Bullhead City, and the highway to Lake Havasu City, should also get an early start.”
She adds, “Desert wildflowers should keep blooming until the onset of hot days.”
That brings us to the scorpion weed, also known as Blue Phacelia or Wild Heliotrope. It’s a pretty purple flower that grows in abundance in the Lake Havasu area and has a vivid purple color. But don’t be tempted to pick this desert blossom, not that you should pick any wildflower. Coming in contact with scorpion weed can have a similar reaction as touching poison ivy or oak.
Scorpion weed flowers, stems and seed pods are covered in dozens, or even hundreds of “hairs,” each containing an oil that can cause rashes and itching comparable to the effects of poison oak or poison ivy. Scratching the itch does little more than to spread the oil on a person’s skin and making the problem worse.
Scorpion weed oil can also be transferred indirectly from clothing, furniture, rugs and family pets that have been exposed to the weed.
It’s best to look, but don’t touch.
The Desert Botanical Garden’s Wildflower Info Site, based in Phoenix, provides up-to-date reports on desert wildflower blooms. The site, a collaborative effort by 21 parks and gardens, is live during the months of March and April.
In western Arizona, participating parks and gardens include: Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and BLM – Colorado River District (Lake Havasu).
For a list of wildflowers commonly found in the Lake Havasu region, visit the Lake Havasu City CVB website at GoLakeHavasu.com.
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