Tourists take a picture of wildflowers near Badwater Basin in Death Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Death Valley "super bloom" carpets desert with color
March 08, 2016
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A rare "super bloom" of wildflowers in Death Valley National Park in California has covered the hottest and driest place in North America with a carpet of gold. The wildflowers are attracting tourists from all over the world. The flowers are enchanting visitors with a stunning display from nature's paint brush.
Death Valley National Park is the hottest and driest place in North America. It holds a world record for the hottest temperature ever recorded. It was 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. It's also home to the lowest elevation in North America, a place that's 282 feet below sea level. It is called Badwater Basin. Every spring, some wildflowers do bloom before it gets scorching hot. But the abundance of flowers this year is extremely unusual and happens about once every decade.
The last time there was a bloom of this magnitude was in 2005. The time before that was in 1998.
Death Valley's average annual rainfall is 2 inches a year. Sometimes, it gets no rain at all.
This season, the park got three very rare rainstorms in the first two weeks of October that left behind more than 3 inches of rain in some parts of the valley. That was enough to trigger the growth of millions of wildflower seeds that have been dormant in the earth awaiting significant rainfall.
No one knows how long seeds can wait for rain, but the last "super bloom" in 2005 led to the blossoming of some flowers that had never been seen before in the park - indicating their seeds had been dormant for many years.
The most abundant and eye-catching wildflower is the aptly named desert gold, a large, bright yellow bloom that looks like a daisy. The stems this year are growing to waist height and the flowers cover entire hillsides and vast areas of the valley floor in the southern section of the park. These flowers are easily enjoyed from the car.
Patient sightseers who get out of their cars can see many more species. More than 20 species of wildflower bloom in the park at various elevations.
Some of the more common flowers include the deep purple phacelia, the desert five-spot (a delicate pink flower with five burgundy spots around its center), the gravel ghost (a delicate white flower that appears to be floating above the ground like a ghost because its stem is so thin it's almost invisible) and various types of desert primrose.
Right now, the best flower show is at the south end of Death Valley National Park along Badwater Road. It is south of Furnace Creek.
As the temperature rises, those flowers will fade. The bloom will move north and to higher elevations.
The National Park Service updates information on the best spots to see flowers throughout the bloom. For updates, visit www.dvnha.org or www.nps.gov/deva.
The show won't last forever. Most of the flowers will wither in the next few weeks as temperatures start to heat up.
Some flowers may still be around as late as June at higher elevations. But those won't be as easy to see from a car and could require hiking.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes Death Valley’s flowers special?
Write your answers in the comments section below