ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Death Valley Flowers: Spring Wildflowers in a Desolate Land

Updated on April 25, 2011
Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Badwater Basin, Death Valley / Photo by E. A. Wright
Badwater Basin, Death Valley / Photo by E. A. Wright

Death Valley National Park

:: A Tour of Death Valley ::

Not everyone would call Death Valley beautiful. It is a striking place, but it's not lush. It's not welcoming. Instead, it's a place of extremes in topography and temperature.

It's a place you go to feel very small and fragile, like a mere speck of life clinging to the surface of a harsh and indifferent landscape, like a trespasser in a place that was built on a different, grander scale than wherever you usually call home. It's a place you go to remember how much comfort certain parts of the natural world — such as water, trees and shade — actually provide, and how strange it feels to live in their absence.

In Death Valley National Park, the color green is a rarity. Instead, the palette of the landscape is mostly dusty shades of yellow, brown and gray that fade to purple at sunset, when the bright, blaringly hot blue sky switches over to inky blackness and fiercely twinkling stars.

Death Valley is in a remote, desert area of southeastern California, and while some of the first people to explore the area meant to exploit it by mining, it seems a hard place to plunder. It seems a hard place in which to hold onto the idea that the earth ever offers up its riches to us, or that the sun ever smiles upon us, or that anything other than dust springs from the ground.

Here, the tops of the high, craggy peaks in rise above an unusual, below-sea-level basin. Here, the air heats up far above the human comfort zone in the daytime, up past 100, then plunges at night. Here, the cracked, parched ground is a testament to the times of year when the rain stops and doesn't return for months.

At Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in North America, where the ground is 282 feet below sea level, even the mud doesn't survive long unparched.

It's not an easy place to enjoy.

Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright

Hidden Beauty

:: Death Valley Flowers in Spring ::

Yet amid all this seemingly endless starkness, late winter offers a change and a chance for a different kind of beauty to enter the Death Valley landscape.

For a brief time, after the rainy season ends and before the baking heat of spring of summer begins, the weather is actually temperate. And some years, if the conditions are just right, Death Valley erupts with a wild show of wildflowers.

Starting in February, the specks of green break out of the ground and grow quickly, delivering a carpet of blooms, usually at their peak by March. At higher elevations, flowers linger until early summer.

The very names of the flowers — pebble pincushions, gravel ghosts and desert stars — perfectly evoke the Death Valley landscape.

The colors — mostly yellow, purple, and white — might appear muted in another setting. But here, they might as well be shades of neon. Then too, in some other place, these wildflowers might be considered weeds. Here, these brave, rangy stalks draw swarms of tourists and photographers, all very much in awe of something: in awe of the tenacity, audacity and possibilities of life itself.

When to go

Fittingly for a place like Death Valley, the timing and scale of the wildflower show is always unpredictable. The National Park Service offers frequent updates throughout the spring, noting the required mix of rain and warmth, but wildflower season in Death Valley will never be the kind of phenomenon that neatly matches the human rhythms of vacation plans and campground reservations.

But if you happen to be in Southern California and hear that the Death Valley blooms are peaking, for once, just drop everything, get in your car and go.

It's a sight to see. It's a study in contrasts, and it's amazing.

Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley / Photo by E. A. Wright

Visiting Death Valley

:: What You Need To Know ::

  • Crowd alert: If the spring wildflower show is particularly spectacular, don't expect solitude. In 2005, a year in which decent winter rainfall led to a good wildflower show, a writer for the Los Angeles Times described the crowds that followed this way: "Some park rangers are fleeing to Las Vegas for peace and quiet.”
  • Getting to Death Valley: Badwater Basin is about six hours by car from Los Angeles. Some of the roads there can feel very far from civilization (gas, food, etc.) so be prepared.
  • Check conditions: The National Park Service provides a regular update on the wildflowers during the spring. The latest 2011 update can be found here.

Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Death Valley flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright

Death Valley Poll

Have you seen the spring wildflowers in Death Valley?

See results

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)