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Superblooms: California Lilac
California Lilac can be found in the hills of San Diego County. Photo by Tom Meaker
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Superblooms: Monochrome landscapes come to life

California deserts are known for their hot and dry climate, but every once in a while, they burst to life with vibrant blooms of yellow, purple, and pink. Even on hills of chaparral, shades of monochrome green and tan come to life, transforming into a vibrant landscape of lush, colorful blossoms.

This magnificent, yet uncommon occurrence, is known as a superbloom. Superblooms only happen when the right combination of rain and warm temperatures transpire, usually in the early springtime during years when we have received more rain than the annual average.

It is projected that super blooms only happen once every ten years, but in 2019 the unusually wet winter and warm temperatures produced an unexpected super bloom for all to enjoy prior to the looming COVID-19 pandemic.

Wildflowers are responsible for the picturesque landscapes of vibrant colors. Wildflowers are native to the regions in which they occur and are not purposely planted or seeded. Wildflowers adapt easily to different soils and a variety of environments. They can be found anywhere in nature, from the driest deserts to the darkest forests.

A superbloom of bright orange poppies. Photo by Richard Murphy

In addition, they are extremely beneficial to pollinators such as birds, bees, insects, and butterflies. Here in San Diego County, chaparral and coastal sage scrub come to life with different varieties of shrubs and wildflowers blooming at similar times.

Powder purples and blues emerge from the blossoms of California lilac (Ceanothus cyaneus) in the rolling hills of local San Diego County chaparral, reminding us of the splendors of springtime. Brilliant white blooms also come into view thanks to wart-stemmed ceanothus (Ceanothus verrucosus).

On Conservancy preserves, these unexpected super blooms are especially spectacular, reminding us that the preservation of habitat and habitat restoration efforts can help to preserve these rare events for generations to come.

Although it is unclear whether we will witness a super bloom in 2022, we can hold out hope that with enough rain and a little luck, we will be able to experience this once again. Watch for the ceanothus this month!

Written by Aida Rodriguez, outreach associate at The Escondido Creek Conservancy.

A message from the Conservancy: We need your support. In giving to the Escondido Creek Conservancy you are helping wildflowers, California lilac, and precious habitats in the Escondido Creek Watershed. To donate go to For questions please contact [email protected].