Wildflowers in the Desert

White Tackstem

White Tackstem © 2012 Bo Mackison

To see a world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour.  ~ William Blake

My first spring living in the desert, the spring of 2011, was a spring of drought and no wildflowers. The cactus still bloomed, and I was thrilled at the sight of those flowers, but I never did see wildflowers in the depths of the desert, and I saw only a few specimens in the various irrigated botanical gardens in the Tucson area.

So it is with great pleasure, this spring, that I walk on ancient trails in the desert and see splashes of wildflower color almost everywhere I look. Perhaps what is more amazing, last year I thought the desert lovely in its drought induced colors of browns and faded greens. I did not wish for more, because I did not know that more existed. I am glad I saw the naked, dry desert, flower-less, for that is the desert I fell in love with. And this year’s desert bounty, flowery splashes of yellows and oranges, purples and blues, is a gift unexpected, and so cherished that much more.

Jone's Blazing Star

Jone's Blazing Star © 2012 Bo Mackison

Here are but a few of the many wildflowers I captured in my heart, and also with my camera. I apologize now if I have wrongly identified any of these beauties – I suspect I will do so quite often. The desert in filled with wildflowers that I have never seen, no matter how common they may be to real desert dwellers, and though I enjoy discovering the names of the various flowers, I will make beginner’s mistakes.

Nevertheless, I always feel a bit more connected to a flower when I can hail it by its name and so I will make the effort to learn the native names, sometimes humorous, sometimes descriptive, sometimes vainly named by its human ‘discoverer’.

Notch-Leaf Scorpion-Weed

Notch-Leaf Scorpion-Weed © 2012 Bo Mackison

One thing I noticed immediately about many of the desert flowers. Some are very small, perhaps a half inch or less in diameter. A carpet of these tiny flowers is easily seen, but an isolated one or two are treasures easily missed. I discovered that by looking closely at the various surfaces in the desert  — rocky cliffs, gravelly washes, gritty earth stretching into the shadows of the mountains — I see wildflowers that could be easily passed and never discovered.

Poppies and Pollen

Poppies and Pollen © 2012 Bo Mackison

I am filled with great joy when I can simply be still in this desert, perhaps standing in a bit of shade of a palo verde or a mesquite, watching and listening. Where there are patches of flowers, there are frequently a few bees humming and buzzing about, each bee visiting the blossoms and dancing that intricate dance of pollination. Imagine being a bee and visiting an arroyo filled with the tiniest of these flowers. An endless undertaking, quite like counting the grains of sand on the desert floor.

I am filled with a deep gratitude that I have the opportunity to walk amidst the glories of the desert – in awe of this seemingly endless desert filled with the tiniest of gifts.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.



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. Gandalf says:

    Simply lovely. The symmetry on first flower is fascinating. Enjoy the springing desert.

  2. Oh Bo, these are stunning. I can feel the love in your heart, the wonder and the gratitude. You have some wonderful flowers here. I am particularly enchanted by the white tackstem.

    Thank you for sharing what you’ve found.

  3. Here – today – it’s a combination of rain and snow and sleet..and so – your desert wildflowers come as a huge and welcome relief. Simply stunning!!!

  4. I love these photos Bo! I badly miss the desert in spring!

  5. Lovely images, Bo, but then, I’m partial to flowers. You are so right about learning to love the desert without the flowers and then having the flowers be a bonus. I’m delighted you got to see the flowers this year.

  6. Oh! These are so beautiful, Bo. I’m grateful that you have the opportunity to walk amidst the glories of the desert too, so you can share it with us.

  7. Oh, my good Lord Bo but these are incredible. That first photo blew me away – it looks almost like a painting.

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