Top Ten Parks for High-Summer Wildflowers

East & Central: When the Monsoon Comes (Big Bend National Park, Texas)

With three distinct biomes within its borders—the lowlands of the Chihuahan Desert, the high piney country of the Chisos Mountains, and the riparian habitats cut by the Rio Grande—it's no wonder that Big Bend is an International Biosphere. But it's difficult to picture a desert place such as this as wildflower-friendly during the dog days of August.

But that's exactly the truth. July, August, and September are the rainy months at Big Bend, particularly in the Chisos Mountains—and life of all kinds revs into high gear. Big Bend's plants are adapted to make the most of whatever moisture they receive, and when the rains come many of them burst into bloom, carry out their reproductive business, and die—all within a matter of days. The rocky land sprouts vegetation. Insects buzz; toads croak in the moonlight; wildflowers germinate, flower, and fruit in a few short weeks; and humans savor the look and smell of moisture and growth. In the midst of desert vastness, you'll find yellow columbines in rocky canyons; maidenhair fern thriving in lush banks at springs; and goldeneye, creosote bush, ceniza (covered with pink and purple blooms), sage, scarlet bouvardia, and ocotillo in the southeastern part of the park.

More South-Central Hot Spots

Guadaloupe Mountains NP has similar climate and elevation to Big Bend, and you'll find equally eye-popping blooms in the Hill Country to the east. A little further north, Missouri's Mark Twain NF protects a slew of Ozarks flora.

More GORP Big Bend


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