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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Here in Washington, we're still thawing out from winter, but there are signs of spring in the deserts of California. Wildflowers are blooming and that's bringing throngs of wildflower enthusiasts to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It's about two hours east of San Diego. It's the only time of year the park sees many visitors, so Gail Sevrens tries to make the most of it. She works with volunteers and visitors there and she joins us now from Anza-Borrego. Gail Sevrens, what's blooming right now?

Ms. GAIL SEVRENS (State Park District Services Manager, California): Oh, we have some very beautiful blooms out right now. We're calling it the year of the brown-eyed primrose, which is a beautiful cream-colored flower with brown in the center and hence the brown-eyed primrose name.

BLOCK: Mm Hmm.

Ms. SEVRENS: Also we have sand verbena. We have desert sunflower. We have desert chicory, which is this beautiful white flower with little fringed ends that kind of look like those plastic sporks you used to have…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SEVRENS: …in elementary school cafeterias. And even the elusive desert five-spot is in bloom this year. That's drawing a lot of people. That's a lot of their favorite flowers.

BLOCK: This desert five-spot - what's that look like?

Ms. SEVRENS: Well, it's got five petals and when it's mature it's got a spot on the flower.

BLOCK: Appropriately named.

Ms. SEVRENS: Yes. And we do have what some people consider the holy grail of the desert wildflowers, which is the desert lily. And it's a beautiful, very large cream-colored lily. And it's distinguished by the leaves which undulate -and in fact the scientific name includes that in it. We're seeing those in a lot of sandy washes and people are very excited about it.

BLOCK: Yeah. I'm looking at a photo of the desert lily. You can find it on our Web site too. And those leaves they look like, sort of, a rippling kind of tail sticking out from the bottom of the plant.

Ms. SEVRENS: Yes. And it's exciting because before you get the blooms you'll see those leaves come up and that's a good sign. And everybody gets really excited.

BLOCK: You mentioned the desert five-spot. The desert five-spot is elusive. How elusive - how big a find is it, to have it this year?

Ms. SEVRENS: Well, it just - it doesn't bloom in profusion every year that we have blooms. I should say that we'll have a good blooming year, in general, only a couple of times a decade. This is a little unusual because we had one last year too. You don't always find them back to back.

BLOCK: I thought there was a drought in California.

Ms. SEVRENS: There is very definitely. And in fact, here in the desert, we haven't received our average yet of rainfall, we probably won't this year. Our average is six inches and I believe we're up to four or something right now. The interesting thing about the wildflower is it's not just the amount of water, but the timing and some of the other weather factors. They like a rain and then followed by some warm weather - that'll really make the flowers pop. If you have a rain followed by a bunch of wind, then that can dry out the soil and not really help the flowers that much.

BLOCK: Ms. Sevrens, do you have a favorite?

Ms. SEVRENS: Oh, my favorite is actually smoke tree, which has these beautiful purple blossoms that go over the whole tree. It's just fantastic. The only catch is you have to come in June to see it. And since it's usually about 115, 110 degrees then not many people do come see the smoke tree.

BLOCK: Well, Gail Sevrens thanks so much for talking to us about the wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Ms. SEVRENS: Thank you and we look forward to seeing some visitors out here.

BLOCK: Gail Sevrens is a state park district services manager. And for those of us who can't make it to Borrego Springs, there's a photo gallery of some of the wildflowers we talked about at our Web site, npr.org.

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