Photo of the yellow flower of a Cotton-Top Cactus, Echinocactus polycephalus
Rarely Seen Yellow Flower of the Cotton-Top Cactus, Echinocactus polycephalus


When wildflowers blossom in Anza-Borrego, the northern canyons and fields of the Borrego Valley can be remarkable carpets of color. People flock to places like Little Surprise Canyon, Borrego Palm Canyon, and Henderson Canyon (by way of Galleta Meadows). They drive to the north end of DiGiorgio Road or east on Henderson Canyon Road. They may take longer hikes across Alcoholic Pass or up Coyote Creek.

The rewards are many. Plants of the Sunflower Family, the Pea Family, the Evening Primrose Family, the Four O'Clock Family, and others provide colors and fragrances in profusion.

When the flowers are in bloom, commonly seen wildflowers along Henderson Canyon Road from the north end of Borrego Springs Road (3 miles north of Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs) to the Pegleg Monument include purple Sand Verbena, white Dune Evening Primrose, and yellow Desert-Sunflower.

Those who drive north on DiGiorgio Road and continue after it ends on the Coyote Canyon Jeep Trail may stop at Desert Gardens, park by an Ocotillo plant or an Indigo bush, and, carrying a wildflower guide, walk into some of the little canyons at the base of the Coyote Mountain ridge. Or they may continue to Coyote Creek and do their flower-looking to the sound of the splashing waters.

East of Borrego Springs, along County Road S-22 and in Palm Wash below the Calcite Mine, it's often possible to find Orcutt's Woody Aster (surprisingly, an Asteraceae) which is common in this area but rare elsewhere.

After the spring wildflowers fade away, other flowers start to appear. The pea family (Fabaceae) which brings us purple Arizona Lupine, blue Indigo Bush, and yellow catclaw and mesquite flowers in spring produces White Dalea (a host for Thurber's Pilostyles, the smallest plant in the desert) and the bright yellow flowers of the Palo Verde tree.

North of County Road S-22, from Call Box S22-319 northeast to Palo Verde Wash, is a good place to look in late spring to mid summer for the rarely seen flowers of the Diamond Cactus and the Cotton-top Cactus