What happened to the poppies?
- Photo by Sergey Shmidt on Unsplash
Two things that you used to be able to count on in El Paso in March.
- High winds and blowing dust.
- Poppies in bloom on the Franklin Mountains
For as long as I can remember growing up in El Paso, every spring beginning in March our corner of the Chihuahuan desert would show off its natural beauty. What looked like a yellow blanket of beautiful wildflowers would stretch from the base of the Franklin Mountains and growing up into it's many canyons.
Mexican poppies. There were years when the mountain itself would appear to change color from dusty brown to a vibrant green and yellow.
Like so many other things in 2020. Things change. El Paso's annual wildflower bloom is one of them.
Wind advisories with possible structural damage? Check.
Blowing dust so thick that it obstructs visibility to the point of not even being able to see the mountains that are usually majestically rising in the El Paso skyline? Check.
If anything mother nature is remaining consistent this year with the blowing winds. Aside from the laws of atmospheric physics stating that wind flows from high pressure to low pressure in the spring beginning in March. This necessary weather pattern also impacts plant life, from crops, trees, and yes even wildflowers that usually grow right here in El Paso.
Poppies are usually insect-pollinated, but could the wind be the cause of a less vibrant poppy bloom in 2021?
According to the *Agrometeorology website:
Some of the different ways the wind impact plant life are:
- Wind increases the turbulence in the atmosphere, thus increasing the supply of carbon dioxide to the plants resulting in greater photosynthesis rates.
- Wind alters the balance of hormones.
- Wind increases the ethylene production in barley and rice.
- Wind decreases the acid content of roots and shoots in rice.
- Nitrogen concentration in both barley and rice increase with the increase in wind speed
Perhaps it's not the wind, but the lack of another basic necessity for El Paso's wild poppies to thrive, water.
El Paso is also known for its dry spells, with the monsoon or rainy seasons not starting until the later summer months.
According to *The National Weather Service:
In 2020 the average annual rainfall was *5.84 inches.
By comparison in 2019, the average annual rainfall was *8.52 inches.
The most likely culprit for a less than spectacular poppy season in El Paso is good ol' fashioned H2O.
Even though the Visit El Paso website had previously stated that:
"This year’s free community event celebrating El Paso’s annual bloom of Mexican poppies promises to be one of the best in years"
for the annual Poppies Fest in Northeast El Paso this spring 2021.
Unfortunately, it's not.
The annual festival is usually held at the El Paso Museum of Archaeology. This year due to Covid-19 restrictions the museum remains closed. That combined with the decrease in rainfall year over year all but guaranteed that this year's festival would be canceled.
The museum posted an image comparing last year's poppy bloom with the same location this season to show the stark differnce.
The Franklin Mountains remain a beautiful natural monument that our city is built around. This year it's just not showing off as much. The wildflowers that also grow in the yards of some homes around Northeast El Paso are trying to bloom without much success.
Only time will tell what the weather will bring this year, and we can hope for a full bloom next spring.
Stay beautiful El Paso!