Orange Lush: California's 'Superbloom' Wows from the Air

Poppies and other wildflowers bloom in Southern California's Antelope Valley.
Poppies and other wildflowers bloom in Southern California's Antelope Valley. (Image credit: NASA/Jim Ross)

California's "superbloom" appears in almost unbelievable color in a new aerial image from NASA.

The shot comes courtesy NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center aerial photographer Jim Ross, who snapped it from a T-34 airplane on April 2. The image shows Southern California's Antelope Valley carpeted in wildflowers.

The spray of color is an annual event, made more intense by this year's wet winter in California. When the flowers are as dramatic as this year's display, they're called a "superbloom." The last drought-busting season that resulted in a superbloom in California was in 2017.

The desert environment of Southern California might seem a strange spot for wildflowers, but the orange California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is well suited for hot environments. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the plants bloom in the spring and then go dormant in the heat of summer, allowing their tops to die off and surviving underground as a taproot. [Photos: The Sonoran Desert in Bloom]

NASA Armstrong's T-34 doesn't usually stop and smell the flowers; it's a training and mission support aircraft that often accompanies research flights for safety and documentation purposes. But the flight research center is near the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, and Ross snapped the photos during a flight with Armstrong director of Safety and Mission Assurance and astronaut Rex Walheim.

The aerial view is more impressive than the view from space. In March, NASA released a shot of the wildflower bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert Park captured by the Landsat-8 satellite. From Earth's orbit, the vivid flowers blend in with the desert, leaving only the slightest hint of pale color detectable.

An imager on the Landsat-8 satellite snapped this image showing the greening landscape and wildflowers (pale patches) around Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on March 13, 2019. (Image credit: Lauren Dauphin, NASA Earth Observatory/Landsat 8)

Originally published on Live Science.

Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.