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Desert In Bloom

Desert in Bloom

The vistas here in this land of desert and rock feature deep canyons and striated rock formations. But the most impressive sight is yet to come. At some point next month, the gray floor of the desert will be set ablaze by carpets of wildflowers, in riotous shades of purple, yellow and red.

Aficionados maintain that witnessing desert wildflowers is one of the most rewarding experiences in nature. Fall’s dramatic leaf color change is guaranteed to happen every year. Desert wildflowers are far less predictable. If good spring rains are lacking, the flowers don’t appear. When nature does cooperate, for two weeks or a month the desert looks as if it has been streaked by a giant paintbrush.

Adding to the allure, these wildflowers bloom in abundance in only a few spots in the world, including the deserts of Western Australia, Iran and southern Namibia. But Americans can leave their passports at home. In a good year, desert wildflowers are in abundance a short drive from some of the nation’s major Western cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Tucson.

Desert wildflowers attract followers of singular devotion, spawning a growing number of Web sites. David Senesac, an engineer who lives in Silicon Valley, is one such fan who has his own site displaying photos from his viewing trips. He put 8,000 miles on his car in just over two months to see the stellar California blooms of 2005.

Mr. Senesac calls the Mojave Desert, which extends from Southern California into Nevada, southwest Utah and northwest Arizona, one of the most impressive flower zones in the world, “where species from nearby areas like the Sierra Nevada mountains have somehow found a niche in the desert environment.”

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