“Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.Isaiah 35:1-2a
The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
and singing and joy!
A Super Bloom in the Arizona Desert
“Stop,” I exclaimed, “I need to get out and take pictures of the purple owl’s clover.”
Pedro obligingly complied, although he probably would have preferred driving our 4Runner to the top of the rocky, washed-out road before stopping.
But I couldn’t wait a moment longer to jump out of the vehicle with my cameras and start recording the phenomenon in front of us. Purple owl’s clover, poppies, lupine, gravel ghosts, and bluedicks carpeted miles and miles of the normally bland desert landscape. I hadn’t seen anything like this in over thirty years. When I noticed cacti blooming along with the annuals, I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen such a profusion of both types of flowers at once.
Deserts, unlike more temperate areas, don’t receive predictable rainfall. It takes just the right amount of rain, heat, and light to produce an incredible bloom. Abundant late winter and early spring rain create the perfect conditions for desert flowers.
God created desert plants with incredible abilities to survive harsh conditions. Many have deep tap roots, and others have quick-growing roots which spread out to collect surface water. Some plants, such as cacti, store water reserves inside the plant. Others, such as the purple owl’s clover, produce abundant seeds which stay dormant for years until the perfect combination of conditions occurs.
How does Purple Owl’s Clover Survive?
Seeds from purple owl’s clover and other desert annuals have a compound in the seed coat which inhibits the seeds from sprouting. A flower seed can lay on the desert floor for decades waiting for the right amount of water to leach the compound from the seed and allow it to sprout.
Once a purple owl’s clover sprouts, it has a secondary method of accelerating its growth and chances of survival. The plant sends out tiny haustoria, a hairy, root-like appendage. The haustoria pierce other plants’ roots and share the host plant’s nutrition. This system allows the purple owl’s clover to focus on flowering and producing seeds as rapidly as possible. Purple owl’s clover and its cousins in the Broomrape family (such as Indian Paintbrush) are hemiparasites. Hemiparasites possess chlorophyll and carry out photosynthesis but rely on other plants for nutrients.
Some people remind me of purple owl’s clover. It may take years or decades for the right circumstances before they bloom. But when they do, they seek nutrients from a relationship with Jesus—allowing them to mature rapidly in their faith walk.
God created each of us as individuals—some more like perennials, others more like annuals. As Christians, we should bloom where we’re planted. We could end up in a rainforest or a desert, high on a mountain, or down in a valley. And we should have patience with other people on their journeys as well.
Father God, show me how to thrive wherever you plant me. Grant me patience with other people’s growth processes. Show me how to nurture others and live in expectation that you have great things planned for each of us.