Death Valley: Wildflowers of Badwater Road

Although Death Valley averages only 2″ of rain a year, California native plants have adapted and put forth beautiful blooms when it rains. In October 2015, a large rainstorm at the south end of the park washed out the road. On February 18, as part of our Mojave Desert road trip, we drove to the south end of Badwater Road to see the resulting wildflower ‘superbloom‘.

This post covers the wildflowers we saw at the south end of Death Valley, such as the desert five-spot shown above. All these plants are part of the creosote bush scrub community. The terrain is dominated by creosote bush and is flat, covering most of the valley floor and alluvial fan.

I identified flowers using the 2nd edition of Mojave Desert Wildflowers by Pam Mackay. The following descriptions are from this book. Click on the photos to see an enlarged image.

Brown-eyed primrose, chlyismia claviformis

This annual has a well-developed rosette of purple-spotted, pinnate leaves with large lateral leaflets. … Flower clusters are produced at the tips of drooping, 4″-24″ stalks. The 4-parted flowers have white or yellowish petals with dark spots near the base.

Desert five spoteremalche rotundifolia

The erect, rough-haired 4″-16″-tall stems of this spectacular annual bear dark-green, round scalloped 1″-2″-long leaves on a”-4″ stalks. The spherical flowers have 5 separate, pink, 3/4″-1 1/4″-long petals, each with a dark-purplish blotch on the inside.

Desert gold, geraea canescens

Desert sunflower usually behaves as an annual, although it sometimes live more than 1 season. It branches from the base, producing leafy stems up to 2′ high. … The 1″-3″-wide flower heads are produced in loose, branched clusters, each head with numerous disk flowers and 10-21 golden-yellow ray flowers.

desert gold and the Panamint Range
desert gold with the Panamint Range across Death Valley

Desert Sand-Verbena, abronia villosa

Desert sand-verbena is a sticky, hairy, trailing annual with branched 4″-20″ stems. The 1/2″-1 1/2″-long leaves are triangular to round, opposite, and unequal at the base. The rounded, headlike flower clusters are on 1″-3″ stalks and have 15-35 pink, 1/2″-long flowers and lanceolate bracts below.

bank of desert sand-verbena
bank of desert sand-verbena

Forget-me-not, cryptantha

Forget-me-nots generally have tiny, white, 5-parted flower that often occur in coiled, spikelike clusters. Like many members of the borage family, they have rough hairs. … There are numerous species of forget-me-nots in the Mojave Desert, and even the best of botanists can be confused when identifying them.

Golden evening primrosechlyismia brevipes

This annual produces 1′-2′-tall stems from a basal rosette. The 2″-6″-long pinnate leaves have conspicuous red veins on the undersides. … Yellow, 4-parted flowers with 1/4″-3/4″-long petals are produced in nodding clusters.

The plants photographed look like hybrids since they have yellow petals and dark spots near the base of the petals.

Golden evening primrose has been known to hybridize occasionally with brown-eyed primrose, a white-petaled species. … The hybrids resemble brown-eyed primrose in size, shape, and habit, but the petals are yellowish.

Notch-leaf phaceliaphacelia crenulata

This foul-smelling annual grows 4″-24″-tall. The dark-green, 1″-5″ leaves are pinnately divided or lobed into segments with scalloped margins. The stems … bear bell-shaped, bluish-purple flowers with white throats and protruding stamens.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

2 thoughts on “Death Valley: Wildflowers of Badwater Road”

    1. Yes, in February the hills and canyons have almost no vegetation. This area was colored yellow with desert gold. And then you look closer and see the other flowers. A treasure hunt!


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