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WILDFLOWER FLOURISHES AND FLOPS

SONORAN DESERT: Baja California (mostly Vizcaino region)

region map
The major wildflower localities featured in this section are:
(8) The Bahia de Los Angeles region,
(7) The Calamajue region.

The Gulf Coast of northern Baja California is extremely arid most of the time, with droughts interrupted by occasional deluges from passing hurricanes (as in 1973). An entire year with no rain is not unusual, and note the three-year drought from 1974 to 1976, 3 mm in 3 years.


Some sites are so arid that even creosote bush, the most drought- tolerant plant in North America, grows only in drainages. This photo is on Isla San Luis (Islas Encantadas north of Bahia San Luis Gonzaga, which apparently missed most of the rain that fell on Bahia de Los Angeles that year).

Bahia de Los Angeles rainfall in inches
  SEP OCT NOV DEC JAN FEB MAR Season Total QUALITY
1970 0.27 0 0 0 0 0.04 0.12 0.43 POOR
1971 1.35 0 0 0.12 0 0.04 0 1.51 POOR
1972 0 0.01 0.01 0.04 0 0 0 0.06 POOR
1973 0 2.62 0 0 0.01 0.16 0.04 2.83 ??
1974 0 0 0 0 0.04 0 0 0.04 POOR
1975 0 0.04 0 0 0 0 0 0.04 POOR
1976 0 0 0 0 0 0.04 0 0.04 POOR


Despite the aridity, perennials grow abundantly on the sandy and rocky soils that hold moisture (sand and rock are both good mulches that retard evaporation). But there are no annuals this year. These photos were taken about 15 miles inland from Bahia de Los Angeles.

  SEP OCT NOV DEC JAN FEB MAR Season Total QUALITY
1977 0.55 0 0.40 0 0.26 0.26 0.37 1.84 POOR?
1978 0 2.55 0 0.49 0.27 0.87 0.05 4.23 GOOD?
1979 0.04 0.40 1.02 0.95 0.86 0.20 0.08 3.55 GOOD?
1980 0.02 0 0 0.04 0.12 0.40 0 0.58 POOR



Montevideo Canyon, ca. 20 miles inland from L.A. Bay. The boojum is the tallest known at 81 feet (24.7 m) tall. Compare with 1998 photo below.


The vegetation of this sandy plain on the road to El Arco is almost all large succulents and trees; smaller shrubs and succulents cannot survive the frequent prolonged droughts. Compare with 1998 photos of the same location.

Year Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Total Bloom Quality
1981 0 0 0 0 0.96 0 0.45 1.41 POOR?
1982 0.04 0 0.08 0 0 0 0 0.12 POOR
1983 0.96 0 0.08 1.6 0.17 0.53 1.07 4.41 GOOD?
1984 ø1.35 ø4.02 0.25 0.44 0.52 0 0 6.58 GREAT
1985 1.61 0 0.72 1.85 1.05 0.17 0.04 5.44 GREAT
1986 0 0.16 0.57 0 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.91 POOR
1987 0 0 0 0.17 0 ? ? 0.17 POOR
1988 0 0.76 0 0.8 0.45 0.04 0.21 2.26 FAIR?
1989 0 0.52 0 0.3 0.63 0 0 1.45 POOR?
1990 0.63 1.35 0.63 0.59 0.24 ? ? 3.44 GOOD?
1991               ???*  
1992               ???*  
1993               ???* GOOD


= Hurricane Octavio
* Rainfall data seem to be unavailable (there is no permanent weather station at this site).

Click here for aerial photo - large file!

Click here for larger image
Though there are no rainfall data, the landscape shows that ample rain fell in 1993. This site is inland from Bahia de Los Angeles near the junction with the road to San Borja. Compare with images of this site in soggy 1998.

  SEP OCT NOV DEC JAN FEB MAR Season Total QUALITY
1994-1997               ???* ???*
1998# 5.50ø 0 0   3.00 0 2.50 0 11.00 GREAT
*1994 - 1997: Rainfall data seem to be unavailable (there is no permanent weather station at this site).
øHurricane Nora
#Thanks to Antonio Resendiz and Jeff Seminoff, researchers who had a weather station this year.


A dry lake bed north of the road to Bahia de Los Angeles near the junction with the road to San Borja. This was taken in January at the peak of the bloom of sand verbena (Abronia villosa). As you can see, hurricanes are not bad for natural communities.




By March the sand verbena was fading near L.A. Bay but was replaced by a sun cups (Camissonia sp.) and other annuals.



Warning - 200kb file
Montevideo Canyon in March, where the annual flowers were so dense in places that you couldn't see the ground (or the rattlesnakes). This canyon is the location of the tallest known boojum seen in the 1980 image above. It was known to be alive in the mid 1990s but could not be found in 1998, probably a casualty of Hurricane Nora.




A sandy plain on the road to El Arco; compare with 1980 photo above. The patch of nearly pure sand verbena (Abronia villosa) and sun cups (Camissonia sp.) were only 100 feet apart.




On the road to the Sierra Calamajue was a huge field of lupines. The one resident of this spot (Coco of Coco's Corner) said that Hurricane Nora in September 1997 brought the first rain since 1995.


The sand dunes south of Laguna Salada supported carpets of flowers for the first time in many years.