Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Bloom

Where are the Bloomin' Cacti?

Where are the Bloomin' Cacti? © 2012 Bo Mackison

It’s not often that one can’t see the many cacti in the Sonoran Desert because of blossoming flowers and shrubs.. But this spring one can truly say “Can’t see the cacti for the flowers.”

Park Rangers say that a rainy November and December, followed by a warmer than average January set up the National Monument for a potentially good Spring for desert blossoms. Then two days of soaking rain, each delivering 3/10ths of an inch of moisture, made the flowers pop!

The Palo Verde trees were turning yellow with flowers. The mesquite and brittlebush shrubs looked less like shrubs and more like yellow balls of blossoms. And the flowering plants — desert senna, desert marigolds, Mexican golden poppies, lupine, orange mallow, chuparosa, desert chicory — added shades of yellow, orange, purple and white to complete the transformation of the desert from cacti to layers of floral colors and greenery.

Sonoran Desert Dressed in Yellow

Desert, Dressed in Yellow © 2012 Bo Mackison

What a difference from the desert I fell for in 2011. Not knowing any better, I loved the Sonoran Desert a year ago, even though the desert had first experienced a plant-threatening frost in early February, then a prolonged drought throughout the spring and summer.

Last year, when I visited Organ Pipe for the first time, I asked the Park Rangers if there were any flowers in bloom. They looked at me as if I had just stepped off the bus from the far North. Well, they were close in their assessment. I had just driven to Arizona from the snow-bound Midwest, and I was enthralled with the desert blue skies and warm temperatures.

But no, they explained in particularly patient voices, there were no flowers in the desert right then. The desert was wearing mostly brown and drab green last year. The cacti maintained their greenish colors, but last year the desert scape was quite desolate. . . and brown. Except, I didn’t know just how desolate it was until I saw the Sonoran Desert a few days ago. I could barely contain my excitement with the lush growth, the bright colors, the layers upon layers of textures and life.

Well, truthfully, I didn’t contain my enthusiasm. Not one tiny bit. I was like a kid in a candy shop, going from bush to flower to tree with increasing joy. Everywhere I looked — flowers, flowers, and more flowers! It was almost beyond my understanding. I fell even more in love with this lush, vibrant  desert.



Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She just returned from a visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and has more than 700 photos to sort through and process. Bo will be sharing photos of this gloriously blooming desert for quite a few blog posts..

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Pretty awesome. Amazingly green. Beautiful.

  2. How wonderful that the desert is coming alive and lush for you! 🙂

  3. WOW! It’s just as I imagined the desert might look when it comes into first spring bloom. Gorgeous!

  4. “WOW!” – that last word sums it all up, babe. Isn’t it incredible? The Sonoran Desert is an amazing, jaw-droppingly beautiful slice of heaven. You’ve captured its spirit, its essence, its soul. Gorgeous, Bo!

  5. I would just love to again see the desert in bloom!

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