From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Superbloom in Riverside County, California in 2019

A superbloom is a rare desert botanical phenomenon in which an unusually high proportion of wildflowers whose seeds have lain dormant in desert soil germinate and blossom at roughly the same time. The phenomenon is associated with an unusually wet rainy season. The term may have developed as a label in the 1990s.[1][2]

Necessary conditions and sequence of events[edit]

The conditions under which a superbloom can occur are exceptional. Because some invasive grasses, such as bromes, will compete with native flowers for moisture, the desert must remain dry enough prior to the bloom to keep them from becoming established.[1] The desert must receive rainfall in the autumn, and this rain must penetrate deep into the soil matrix in order to reach a majority of the dormant seeds of flowering plants. If subsequent rainfall is excessive or inundating, the young plants may be carried away in flash floods; if it is inadequate, the seeds will die from dehydration.[3]

Next, the ground in which the seeds lie must warm slowly over the several months which follow the first soaking rain, and the desert must have enough cloud cover both to shield the soil from intense daytime desert heat and to insulate it from overnight freezing temperatures. Finally, once the newly germinated plants have reached the surface of the soil, the desert must remain undisturbed by strong winds which would uproot the plants or damage the young shoots. The rare concatenation of these events is what makes a superbloom such an extraordinary occurrence.[3]

In California, common plants which participate in superblooms are brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) (yellow flowers),[4] California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) (bright orange),[5] bluebells (Phacelia campanularia) (deep purple),[1] lupine (purple), sand verbena (Abronia) (yellow), desert sunflowers (Geraea canescens) (bright yellow), evening primrose (Camissonia brevipes) (mostly white, occasionally yellow), popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys) (white or yellow), and desert lily (Hesperocallis) (white).[6][7][8] Several of these plants are also invasive, such as wild mustard.[9]

In California, superblooms typically occur once every ten years or so. This has happened less often since the beginning of the 21st century due to persistent state drought. The state's Anza-Borrego Park is one of the most popular places to witness a superbloom, and the bloom of 2019 was particularly abundant. This followed another only two years prior, in 2017.[10]

Tourism effects[edit]

Due to the massive influx of tourists, flowers were trampled. A number of people picked them or plants were pulled out with their roots.[11] Additionally, massive traffic jams from the cars the tourists used prompted Lake Elsinore, California to shut down access to Walker Canyon.[12][13]

Algal superblooms[edit]

Because algae often reproduce in large sporadic bouts, referred to as algal blooms, the term "superbloom" is sometimes applied to especially prolific short-term algal growth that causes discoloration of water on a large scale.[14][15] Other than sharing a botanical context, however, the two events have nothing in common.


  1. ^ a b c Holly Ober (March 15, 2019). "Superbloom? If you say so". UC Riverside News.
  2. ^ Eleanor Imster (February 26, 2016). "Rare superbloom in California's Death valley". EarthSky.
  3. ^ a b Roger W. Thompson (2017). We Stood Upon Stars: Finding God in Lost Places. Crown Publishing Group. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-60142-959-9.
  4. ^ Sara Combs; Rich Combs (October 23, 2018). At Home in Joshua Tree: A Field Guide to Desert Living. Running Press. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7624-9166-7.
  5. ^ "Superbloom of California poppies put the gold in Golden State". The Mercury News. March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  6. ^ Trott, Sarah (February 26, 2019). "What to know before heading out to see the Superbloom". KESQ. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  7. ^ Erika Martin (March 5, 2019). "Here's How to Take in the Impressive Wildflower Blooms Popping up Across Southern California". KTLA.
  8. ^ "California Super Bloom: Everything You Need to Know". MK Library. March 22, 2021. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
  9. ^ "Where to See a 'Super Bloom' in the Bay Area". KQED. March 19, 2019. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  10. ^ Alice Bryant (March 11, 2019). "Rain Brings Second California Super Bloom in Two Years". VOANews.
  11. ^ Canon, Gabrielle (April 9, 2019). "The vigilante shaming influencers for bad behavior in national parks". The Guardian. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  12. ^ Reyes-Velarde, Alejandra (March 14, 2019). "Instagram-hungry crowds are destroying the super bloom". LA Times. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  13. ^ Gammon, Katharine (March 18, 2019). "#Superbloom or #poppynightmare? Selfie chaos forces canyon closure". The Guardian. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  14. ^ Indian River Lagoon 2011 Consortium (April 2015). The Superbloom: Evaluating Effects and Possible Causes with Available Data (PDF).
  15. ^ Steven Johnson (2018). Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-59448-821-4.