Death Valley is Full of Life


Heavy storms in the fall spurred an explosion of growth in winter. (Nat Geo News)

How can the desert bloom? Scroll through our encyclopedic entry to find out.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including today’s photo gallery and a link to the perfectly timed March 12 Death Valley BioBlitz!

Click through our photo gallery for some close-up images of common Death Valley flowers!

Discussion Ideas

  • Death Valley is clearly full of life! How did this desert get that name?
    • According to the good folks at Death Valley National Park, “Death Valley was given its forbidding name by a group of pioneers lost here in the winter of 1849-1850. Even though, as far as we know, only one of the group died here, they all assumed that this valley would be their grave. They were rescued by two of their young men, William Lewis Manly and John Rogers, who had learned to be scouts. As the party climbed out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains, one of the men turned, looked back, and said ‘goodbye, Death Valley.’ This name, and the story of The Lost ’49ers have become part of our western history.”


  • Why doesn’t the valley bloom like this every year?
    • It does. In fact, according to Ranger Alan Van Valkenburg (in the video above), “you’ll always get flowers somewhere in Death Valley, almost every month of the year.” But this year, the warm-and-wet El Niño weather intensified the seasonal bloom into a “superbloom.” Previous superblooms were in 1998 and 2005, which also saw heavy El Niño activity.


  • What happens to all those wildflowers during the arid Death Valley summer or especially dry years—which California has been experiencing for a while now?
    • They’re dormant. “Most flowers are ephemerals, which have short, deliberate lives. They blossom quickly, and generate seeds before the dry heat stifles them once more.” Once stifled, Death Valley’s wildflowers can stay dormant at or near the surface for decades.
    • In the words of Ranger Van Valkenburg, “There are so many seeds out there, just waiting to sprout, just waiting to grow! . . . When you get the perfect conditions, those seeds can all sprout at once.”



Nat Geo: See the ‘Super Bloom’ Bringing Life to Death Valley

Nat Geo: What is a desert?

Quartz: A rare and beautiful “super bloom” of wildflowers is taking over Death Valley

Death Valley National Park: 2016 BioBlitz – Join this FREE, fun, and generally awesome event!

Death Valley National Park: 2016 Wildflower Update

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