Outdoors | Field

Updated: February 21, 2016

Rare 'super bloom' could sprout millions of flowers in Death Valley

By Samantha Crook

A rare flower bloom could happen in one of the hottest places on Earth, where 2 inches of rain a year is common.

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Temperatures in Death Valley can exceed 120 degrees.

If the valley, which spans across California and Nevada, gets a little more rain, it could create a "super bloom," a phenomenon in which millions of flowers grow in the normally barren area. It happens about once a decade. The last one was in 2005.

It's not uncommon to see some flowers there, but a super bloom is different.

Park ranger Alan Van Valkenburg advises sightseers to visit the area during the super bloom at least once.

"It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Valkenburn said in a U.S. National Park Service video. "These areas that are normally just rock, just soil, just barren, not even shrubs, they're filled with life. So Death Valley really does go from being a valley of death to being a valley of life."

The National Park Service said in January that it spotted "fields of flowers on the black volcanic rocks."

Currently, there are about 20 wildflower species in bloom, according to park spokeswoman Abby Wines.

The park said above-average autumn rains caused the early bloom. If El Nino rains start falling, it'll be even more spectacular.

Wines recommends interested parkgoers visit Death Valley to witness the super bloom sooner rather than later. She said the flowers will start to wilt in early April, and they'll die when temperatures reach over 100 degrees or when strong winds hit the valley and dry them out. She also suggests visiting the park during the early morning or afternoon, when lighting is brighter and better and the flowers show their most vibrant colors.

Flowers that bloom include the desert gold, a yellow daisy-like flower that has covered large areas of the park, and the desert five-spot, a pink or purple cup flower that can have up to three dozen buds on just one plant.

"One of my favorite flowers is the gravel ghost," Wines said. "It's not a very showy flower. It's just plain white, but what makes it amazing (is) the leaves are flat and blend into the ground and the stalk is very thin so it looks like it's floating 2 feet off the ground."

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