AZentertain: Tour: Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers in Arizona:

The elusive Mexican Poppy and hunting for flowers in Arizona

By Jeeff Reed

It is that time of year when we begin to look for the spring flowers.  Last month, in this column, I suggested that this might be a good year for the blooms. 

I have received a number of “poppy” sightings from readers, and I am going to pass them on to you.  Over the years however, I have never quite understood why we get so excited over the sighting of Mexican Poppies, when we actually have several hundred varieties of flowering plants in the Sonoran Desert. 

Frankly, I think the bright blood red bloom on the Hedge Hog Cactus is one of the most beautiful flowers I have ever encountered.  The Mexican Poppies, as we call them in the Sonoran Desert, or the California Poppies as they call them in the Mohave Desert are a rare occurrence in our nature.  This is probably why we get so excited when we find a patch of these poppies growing wild along a mountainside.

Most likely, you have a few houseguests this time of year, and you want to show them a good time, so hunting for the elusive Mexican Poppy can be fun. 

By the way, have you ever noticed that your houseguests come here on vacation this time of year, and just assume that since they are visiting, you must be on vacation too? 

Anyway, invite them back in August and watch their reaction.  If you want to show them some desert flowers without driving out of town, take them to Papago Park and the Desert Botanical Gardens. 

Here, the flowers are tended to, and this is a great time of year to visit the Park.  If you make it over in the spring, the Gardens will have a wonderful Butterfly Pavilion set up.  Not only will you get to check out the flowers along the pathways, you can also walk into the enclosure with thousands of butterflies to enjoy. 

This is no place for anyone who has a phobic reaction to butterflies, but for the rest of us, it is certain to put a smile on our faces.  

Take a little time and drive through Papago Park as well, searching for more desert flowers.  At the top of the loop in the park, you will find yourself overlooking Hunt’s Tomb and a nice view of the valley below.  The mountain here is also home to the Big Horn Sheep. 

Park the car and check it out.  It really isn’t a mystery, because this mountain is also a part of the Phoenix Zoo, situated below you.  This is actually the sheep’s enclosure for the zoo, and they are hanging out on the sides of this little mountain.

Want a little more of a drive; check out South Mountain State Park for desert flowers. 

The largest city park in the United States, just find Central Avenue and head south.  This will take you into the park and plenty of places to search for the spring flowers.  The brittlebush bloom is one of the most common spring flowers in this city park. 

Some years, it will take over an entire hillside and the yellow flowers are very spectacular to behold.  You will also find Desert Mallow, and Desert Marigolds in the city park. 

While we are discussing parks with desert flowers, don’t forget Boyce Thompson Arboretum. 

Take the Superstition Freeway (Highway 60) east toward Superior.  Stay the course; enjoy the wild flowers along the roadside as you make your way to the Arboretum.  If everything is right in the desert, you will have a wonderful show along the way. 

The Arboretum is operated by the University of Arizona, and boasts the fact that they have at least two of every plant that grows in a desert region on this planet.  If nothing else, you will find some very odd plants and spring is a great time to check them out.  If you hit it right, you might even show up during their spring flower sale, when they are selling some of their blooms.

Of course the highlight of your spring flower quest will be Picacho State Park.  Located on Interstate 10, south of Phoenix and north of Tucson, this is the time of year to behold the Mexican Poppies in all their glory. 

If you are heading to Picacho State Park to check out the flowers, then remember to come home via Florence and the old Tom Mix Highway.  This loop tour will certainly entertain your houseguests.  If you really think about it, buy them a map of Arizona, give them the keys to the extra car, and send them exploring without you. 

This will give you time to hang out at home, watch a little morning news and sip your coffee quietly.  If you would like to know up to the minute conditions for spring flowers, you can go to azcentral.com and get various phone numbers to call for recorded messages. 

Jeff Reed is a retired Gerontologist, who has owned a private travel club for senior citizens in Arizona since 1984.  He has traveled more than 900,000 miles on escorted tours just in the State of Arizona.  You can reach him at [email protected] or leave him a voice message at 480-497-2478. His web site is www.tjstravelclubforseniors.com

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