California's spectacular super bloom unlikely to blossom this year

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
April 19, 2018, 2:08:56 PM EDT

Imagine seeds of dozens of flower species sitting there in the soil waiting for the perfect conditions to sprout, grow and produce an abundance of gorgeous colors. The spectacle only happens about once every decade when a California super bloom occurs, and the conditions aren't looking promising this year.

The last California super bloom occurred during the spring of 2017, after the state experienced extreme drought for years. Last winter's rainfall was enough to bust the several-year drought, and it also was enough to allow for widespread colorful blooms to emerge.

Desert Super Bloom

In this March 19, 2017, photo, visitors walk among the poppy bloom at Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

"Last year, the deserts of Southern California into southern Nevada had normal to above-normal rainfall and certainly aided the super bloom last year," AccuWeather Meteorologist Ken Clark said.

The chances are not looking good for two consecutive super blooms.

Most places are running far below normal in terms of rainfall since Oct. 1, which is the start of the rain season, according to Clark.

Lucinda McDade, the executive director of the largest garden in the world that is dedicated to California native plants, called the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, said for a super bloom to happen, there needs to be a healthy seed blanket. A seed blanket is when dormant seeds are in the soil waiting for the right conditions in order to sprout, grow and flower.

Once there is a healthy seed blanket in place, a super bloom occurs when rain and temperature conditions are just right.

"Rain can be a bit less frequent so long as it does not become brutally hot and dry," McDade said.

Rain showers that begin in November or December that come in two- to three-week intervals over the course of the winter are ideal.

Wildflowers across foothills of San Gabriel Mountains in Palmdale Lancaster area in spring superbloom at Lancaster California Poppy Reserve California

Wildflowers across foothills of San Gabriel Mountains in Palmdale Lancaster area in spring superbloom at Lancaster California Poppy Reserve California. (Robert_Ford/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

"A terrible combination is great rains in November and December followed by a warm and dry January. That causes all of the little plants and seedlings that were prompted to sprout by the nice November and December rain to croak," McDade said.

When seedlings die, they do not mature and therefore do not bloom.

"A super bloom occurs once or twice a decade on average, but they can also occur back to back or not at all in a decade. If you are lucky enough to witness one, go see it," McDade said.

McDade said there are three traits of a super bloom. They are widespread and cover large areas within California. Flowers in super blooms can become dense enough that they can been seen from space. Also, there can be great diversity with many different species blooming.

When asked if she thought there would be a super bloom this year, McDade said there was no chance.

"There was zero rain and warm and very dry conditions in November and December, so it was off to very bad start. We understand that many species of California native plants really require rain during these late fall and early winter months in order to sprout. Then a huge rain storm in early January probably caused a lot of seeds to sprout, but then no rain until late February resulted in a lot of death of those vulnerable little plants," McDade said.

The inconsistent conditions were detrimental to the seedlings that were trying to sprout and bloom.


(Image via Pixabay/arclightmedia)

"Wonderful rains from late February to late March again caused a lot of things, including flowers, to sprout; however, the rain showers stopped, so many tiny seedlings will not have made it," McDade said.

McDade said not all California natives are able to respond to rain this late in the wet season.

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"Some really want earlier rain showers then nicely spaced rain showers for the duration of the winter such that nice rains in one late winter month is not going to yield the kind of diversity or density that makes a super bloom," McDade said.

Due to the brief ideal conditions, some flowers have been able to bloom in some areas.

"This year, in a few places, we are having a decent bloom but it is not as widespread, dense or diverse as it was last year," McDade said.

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