New Life in Death Valley

March 02, 2016


Deathvaly455c_23feb16 (1)

Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren

Despite its foreboding name, when conditions are ideal, life happens in Death Valley National Park. Geology and biology mix in dramatic and surprising ways in the vast park on the California/Nevada border, one of the deepest — 282 ft (86 m) below sea level at Badwater Basin — and, in summer, one of the hottest places on Earth.

In the wake of plentiful fall and winter rains, and as spring takes hold in 2016, flowers speckle Death Valley’s rocky washes, decorate low ridges and blanket the unpromising, gravelly alluvial fans at the bases of the barren western Great Basin mountains, including the Amargosa and Panamint ranges. Flash floods in October 2015 provided a spur for this latest rejuvenation, and intermittent rains have since helped promote what some are calling a super bloom, which occurs perhaps every decade or so, when every available seed seems to take a flowery leap of faith.

Desert Gold (Geraea canescens), a prolific sunflower, decorates valley slopes and even barren arroyo edges, as in the photograph shown here, near the volcanic and sedimentary backdrop of Death Valley’s colorful, mineral-splashed Artist’s Palette, taken on February 24, 2016. Other floral sightings included purple Notch-Leaf Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata); Desert Five-Spot (Eremalche rotundifolia), an enveloping pink blossom with red dots in its center; and Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes). The flowers in the bottom photo, taken the evening of February 23, 2016, are along the park's main highway, north of Furnace Creek.

Temperatures and other factors permitting, the flowery display will continue into mid-April on the low valley floor, continuing on higher slopes and mid-elevations into early May, and finishing in early June at elevations above 5,000 ft (1,520 m).

Photo Details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D3200; Lens: AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G; Focal Length: 32mm (35mm equivalent: 48mm); Aperture: ƒ/11.0; Exposure Time: 0.0020 s (1/500); ISO equiv: 250. Bottom - same except: Focal Length: 44mm (35mm equivalent: 66mm); Aperture: ƒ/10.0; Exposure Time: 0.0031 s (1/320); ISO equiv: 400