Photos in Slide Show: 1,2,3,6 – Seven Springs Recreation Area, Arizona (Cave Creek Canyon); 4,5 McDowell-Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale, Arizona

The most beautiful event in the deserts of the American Southwest is the spring wildflower season. This is especially true of the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, generally the wettest of the American deserts. During a year with sufficient rainfall, the profusion of color provides a spectacular contrast to the normally arid landscape. To get the best displays there must be heavy rains the previous autumn. This happens perhaps once every seven years. In October 2000, southern Arizona received heavy and persistent rains with spectacular results, the best displays during our 25+ years of living here. Our first and best experience in the desert came in the spring of 1979, the so-called “once in a century” year, at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of wildflower season is visiting the various parks and open areas around Phoenix and Tucson in search of the most beautiful displays. Rainfall distribution is rarely even in the desert so nearby areas may or may not have similar wildflower displays. The season usually lasts from the middle of February until early April. In April, the flowering season for cacti begins with many beautiful displays possible. Read our most recent wildflower report listing many popular locales, Spring Wildflowers in Southern Arizona. Also, check more features for Southwestern Deserts.

Photo Tips: The best time to get photos would be in the early morning while it’s cool or on a slightly cloudy day. The mid-day full sun is not the best time to take photographs of wildflowers. Walk around the wildflowers to see if the lighting, change in position, or focal point may yield more interesting photos. For wildflower landscapes, choose a field of flowers in the foreground of a great landscape and use a wide angle lens. Set the aperture for a great depth of field. A macro lens would be best for taking photo of a single bloom or a small group of flowers. It can be windy at times so let the breezes stop before taking a photo.

More Photos from the Sonoran Desert


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