“Superblooms” of California and the U.S. Southwest are the stuff of (literal) legend. For centuries, Indigenous communities have celebrated massive springtime blossomings of chia, desert lilies, tarweeds, sunflowers, and other flowers with edible seeds or roots. “Fields as verdant as they are flower-covered touch the very waters of the sea,” wrote Spanish colonist Juan Bautista de Anza in 1774.
Today, these floral explosions are confined to pockets of relatively undisturbed habitats, mostly in the vast southwestern deserts of California, Arizona, and Nevada, and pop up only after a good rain year—an increasingly rare event in an era of climate change.
This winter, California has seen an