"White dune landscape, White Sands National Monument, 2016." by U.S. National Park Service , public domain
Desert in Color
Brochure 'Desert in Color' about Wildflowers of White Sands National Park (NP) in New Mexico. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior White Sands White Sands National Monument Desert in Color Bloom T here is no single “best time” to see desert wildflowers. Different types of plants bloom at different times. At White Sands National Monument, flowers bloom later than those in the surrounding desert foothills due to the pool of cold air from the mountains that settles into the basin at night. Annual Wildflowers Most wildflowers begin blooming around the middle of April. The most common early bloomers in the dunefield include the sand verbena, Hartweg’s sundrops, desert mentzelia, and White Sands mustard. In midMay, these are joined by gypsum centaury, white evening primrose, and greenthread. Some plants may continue to produce flowers throughout the summer, especially after monsoon-season rains. Pepperweed, a white-flowered mustard that is often overlooked, grows throughout the residential area and dune margins. It is the hardiest wildflower in the park and is the first plant to bloom in the spring, usually around the first of March, earlier in warmer years. It blooms throughout the summer and into the fall. Pepperweed has been seen in bloom in the monument every month of the year. Spring Wildflowers Spring is when all of the small wildflowers begin to bloom and the grasses and bushes begin to turn green. Soaptree yucca is the star of the spring flowers. It grows tall and can easily be spotted throughout the dunes. Its flowers are white and have the appearance of upside down tulips. Another big contender in the spring is prairie gentian. This wildflower is easiest to spot at the beginning of the Dune Life Nature Trail. There is also a white version of the plant that will bloom next to the purple one. Summer Wildflowers Many wildflowers are seen in the summer but few are robust enough to bloom during the high temperatures. These plants have smaller flowers like the gypsum centaury and desert mentzelia. They can be found growing in the interdunal areas throughout the entire dunefield. Fall Color Even though most of the plants at White Sands bloom in the spring and summer, there is still color to be seen in the fall. The fall colors can begin to appear as early as October and last through November. This is the time when the Rio Grande cottonwood trees begin to turn a beautiful orange and the skunkbush sumacs start to turn a vibrant red. These plants can be found throughout the first five miles of Dunes Drive. For more information on White Sands, visit http://www.nps.gov/whsa. Desert Mentzelia Gypsum Centaury Globemallow Blooms: Late spring - late summer Blooms: Early summer Blooms: Late summer - early fall Mountain Pepperweed Rubber Rabbitbrush Hartweg’s Sundrops Lepidium montanum Ericameri nauseosa Calylophus hartwegii Blooms: Early spring - late summer Blooms: Late fall - early winter Blooms: Early spring - late summer Tree Cholla Catchfly Prairie Gentian Cowpen Daisy Mentzelia multiflora Centaurium maryannum Cylindropuntia imbricata Blooms: Late summer - early fall Soaptree Yucca Yucca elata Blooms: Late spring - late summer Eustoma exaltatum Sphaeralcea sp. Verbesina encelioides Blooms: Late spring - summer Blooms: Late summer - early fall Rio Grande Cottonwood Skunkbush Sumac Populus deltoides ssp. wislizeni Color: Early fall Rhus trilobata Color: Late fall Note: Blooming seasons may vary due to more or less rainfall. Revised 04/03/2016