Category Archives: Wild Flowers of Southwest USA

Nara Visa New Mexico: Land of Enchantment




New Mexico refers to itself as the Land of Enchantment.  That is a pretty bold claim, not entirely unjustified. It is a beautiful state. Yet it has some places that are evidence of serious decline in the United States.  I stopped at one of on this trip.


Before this trip to Arizona began my lovely wife Christiane, who thinks she really is the boss of me, told me—clearly and unequivocally—that no stops for photographs would be tolerated on the journey down south. I could take photos on the trip back north at the end of winter but now she wanted to get as far south as fast as possible.  She wanted to get out of the cold. She thought she had been very clear. I shrugged. In other words, I did not evince acceptance or rebellion, but in my heart of hearts I knew I would stop if I saw something compelling, Today, I found compelling.

We drove through the high plains of Kansas and Oklahoma as well as west Texas We saw some lovely fog and resulting hoarfrost but I dutifully resisted stopping. Frankly, we were in a hurry to get to Arizona because we started out on the trip and the weather conditions appeared excellent.  This turned out to a wise analysis when we arrived later in New Mexico we learned that we were 1 day ahead of the storm

However, when we drove through the tiny town of Nara Visa New Mexico I could not resist.  The town sits in the midst of the Canadian River Breaks, a strip of rough and broken land extensively dissected by tributaries of the Canadian River. This was a town in a serious state of decline. If Donald Trump ever drove into it he would have to admit that this was a shithole town. Worse even than those countries from Africa he described as “shithole countries.” How is that possible? Is it true that Donald Trump was the president of a country with a shithole town for 4 years?

I stopped and eagerly climbed out of the car right along highway 54. There some fantastic dilapidated houses and buildings and I took a number of photographs. It love towns on the way toward ghost towns. I am not sure what my attraction to them is, but it is real.

The first school in this town was built in 1906.  By 1910 it had 4 active churches. Reminds me of Steinbach. By 1919 it had 8 saloons, at least 3 dance halls, more than 1 drug store, a barber shop, general stores, butcher shops, millinery shops, and believe it or not auto suppliers! There were garages, hotels, and one bank. Sounds like a pretty thriving community before the 1920s.  Prosperity did not last. By 1968 there were only 7 students in the school.  That was the year the school permanently closed. By 2020 the census said there were 212 residents! According to Michael Harding’s blog by 2022 less than 100 people lived there.  It certainly is declining and you can see it in the buildings sinking into the earth.

The Japanese have built a philosophy on the idea of appreciating old things that are deteriorating.  They call it Wab-Sabi. I have posted about it before and you can find it under the category of Wabi-Sabi.I find it a very congenial philosophy. Perhaps because I am old and deteriorating.

On the other hand, I have also been blogging about the decline of western civilization which is not necessarily a good thing, although western civilization has often been responsible for much grief.


Silly Mountain



Silly Mountain is the first Mountain I ever climbed. It is a pretty modest mountain of course, but I loved the walk up with the Driedgers a few years back in my first winter in Arizona. I will never forget the experience.

It was not just the flowers that were gorgeous.  The desert turned green! Hard to believe. A green desert but that can happen in the Sonoran Desert which gets more rainfall than any other North American desert.


A dead Saguaro and one very much alive

But this year was different. This year the flowers were stunning.

Today the flowers added a luster to the walk. We did not walk up the mountain. We just strolled at the base and took a few photographs.


One of the things that was striking about Silly Mountain is not just the yellow flowers but the base of green. All the rain we had in the autumn last year and then from January to March have produced an abundance of vegetation.








Far from the Maddening Crowd


These are not great photos because they were taken directly into the sun but I have tried to capture the crowds that came to look at wildflowers at Lost Dutchman State Park Arizona. I estimated there were about 250 flower lovers.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to see such crowds coming to look at wildflowers.

The people were of all ages. Old Codgers like me to young bright and eager kids. It was spectacular. Wonders never cease.



If you click on the photo and make it bigger I think you will see what the park is usually like. Finally I was far from the Maddening crowd after I lost them. I took a wrong turn.   How can you lose 250 people?


A Flower Child arrives in Heaven




When I was a young lad going to University, it was the time of hippies and flower children. I always considered myself as on the fringes of this group. The term we liked to refer to ourselves was “freaks.”  But I always liked the expression “flower children.”  It called to mind these crazy kids at the Kent State  University Vietnam War Protest, and other places, who stood in front of the national guard members that were pointing their rifles at them and they smiled at the guards and placed flowers in the barrels of the gun.  How crazy is that?   Much to my surprise I actually became a flower child of sorts many years later when as an adult of sorts I became interested in wildflowers. I remember my mother was amazed. How could this happen?  Well, my answer to her was, “How could it not happen?” What is there not to like about wildflowers?

It was a very windy day, so I gave up on trying to freeze images of flowering blowing in the breeze.

One afternoon this winter in Arizona Christiane and I went for a jaunt on Red Mountain Road and Saguaro Lake and then headed south to complete a loop to Busch Highway and then Usery Pass Road.  We saw many wildflowers along the way. But we were really shocked at Usery Pass Road  where there was a long line of cars parked beside the road. What was happening we wondered? It was the wildflower children going crazy photographing flowers. My sport has been turned over to the rabble! And there was good reason for that. The flowers were outstanding.


There was a traffic jam of sorts in the countryside where we saw these wild flowers. Everyone, it seemed wanted to see these gems. Who can blame them?


Super Bloom



Everyone in Arizona this year, as in many other places in the southern USA, complained a lot about the bad weather. I admit it—I was one of them.  Everyone complained. Some told me it was the worst winter in 40 years.  It was awful. But it was also great!


From the perspective of a wildflower guy—like me—it was fantastic. Conditions were great.  I learned from Ranger B an interpreter at the Maricopa Parks where we often attended his talks, that the ideal conditions for wildflower growth were a wet autumn followed by consistent occasional rain from January to March. This is exactly what happened this past year. He said it happened about once every 11 years. Well it happened this year. Life is good.


I had been hoping to experience one of those years ever since I heard about it.  Ranger B says it was fantastic to see. He was right.


The result of these ideal conditions is called by local “a Super Bloom.”  And that was what we experienced this year. Now I say it was the best weather ever in Arizona.  Though, I admit, I also complained about it. Some of us are never happy and are never satisfied.



Saguaro National Park


Our last day in Arizona was spent at Saguaro National Park, which was created to save the iconic Saguaro Cactus from extinction. So far so good

Hedgehog cactuses are also gloriously in abundance in the park.


This part of the park is located at the east end of Tucson. The day before we spent at the west branch of the park.

I love the hedgehog cactus when they bloom.

When the yellow brittlebush wild flowers are in bloom the desert comes alive with beauty.


I don’t know if there is a better place to see the majestic saguaro cactus that grows no where else other than the Sonoran Desert.

We drove on an 8 miles self-guided drive around the park.

Some of the rock formations were beautiful too.

I never get enough of the lovely pink flowers of the Hedgehog  cactus.

The Desert in Bloom

Through the wonders of irrigation, even in a year of drought, like this one, the desert can bloom. At the Desert Museum in Tucson, one of my favourite places, , that has been shown.



Flowers can bloom in the desert if they are given a boost of water.


The Museum is different from most. Almost everything in it is found outdoors. It is located right next to Saguaro National Park, dedicated to the Saguaro cactus found only in the Sonoran Desert.

The Century Plant is highly unusual, but beautiful in its own way.

In fact with care the desert can even bloom Hoepners. Of course it can’t make Don smile. That would be asking for too much.



Cactuses: the glory of the Sonoran Desert

This has been a strange year in the Sonoran Desert, mainly on account of the absence of rain. It was the 4th driest year in about 130 years. Most wild flowers could not manage a bloom at all. Al of the energy of the plants went to survival.

Cactuses usually manage to survive and flower even in a  year of severe drought. The Hedgehog below is one of my favourites.


This year however the cactuses bloomed later than normal. Perhaps that was their reaction to drought.

These are called Claret Cup. The blooming cactuses are the glory of the Sonoran desert. unfortunately, this year I just had a chance to capture a few images late in March.

These were not wild. I found them on my neighbour’s yard. Desperate years call for desperate measures. I am afraid it is next year country again.