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Wildflowers are popping up across the Western United States


Wildflowers are popping up across the western United States, blanketing the hills of Arizona and Southern California in brilliant colors. This year, the so-called superbloom is so big it can be seen in satellite images from space.


But what exactly defines a superbloom? Nick Jensen, conservation program director with the California Native Plant Society, has the answer.

NICK JENSEN: It's a phenomenon in which there are large numbers of wildflowers - typically annuals - that grace large swaths of the state in selected areas where those conditions are favorable in years with good rainfall.

MARTIN: But rain is not the only essential ingredient to a successful superbloom season.

JENSEN: One of the things that has to be in place is a seed bank.

MARTÍNEZ: And those seed banks might be lurking in places you would not expect. So picture this. You're taking a walk through Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth, but just below your burning footsies...

JENSEN: You're probably walking over thousands and thousands of wildflower seeds. And the seeds are essentially live plants in a state of dormancy hanging out in the soil, waiting for the conditions to be right.

MARTIN: Jensen says when the temperature is right and there are not invasive plant species to compete with, the seeds have a better chance to sprout. Oh, and, of course, it takes a lot of water.

JENSEN: And voila. We have a wonderful display of wildflowers.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, if you're planning to visit the blooms, Jensen asks that you educate yourself about the plants and watch where you step.

JENSEN: So they don't pop their picnic blanket out on a population of rare plants or beautiful wildflowers. You know, is this just a bunch of poppies or is this a diversity of plants?

MARTIN: Jensen believes that if visitors engage with the environment in a safe and thoughtful way, it will help protect these flowers for years to come.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.