Desert super blooms are a beautiful—and rare—sight.

This rare phenomenon transforms deserts into a riot of color.

This winter has brought several surprises to California, including record snowfall in the Sierra Nevada and near-record rainfall in other regions. According to experts, the wacky weather has triggered another natural phenomenon: a super bloom of wildflowers in the southeast corner of the state. 

Believe it or not, “super bloom” is a technical term. And just in case you aren’t good at being literal, it means an “overwhelming abundance”—as in the kind of naturally occurring wildflower spectacle you see once in your life. 

We’ve written about super blooms before—in Death Valley, to the north. The one that’s happening right now is taking place in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is about two hours east of San Diego

Among the flowers that are blooming: dune verbena, which buds out in a vibrant fuchsia, and desert lily, which sprouts white. According to a report from KPBS, an NPR radio station affiliated with San Diego State University, other early bloomers have included yellow desert sunflowers, wooly Indian paintbrush (which blooms orange), and Parish poppies (which are yellow).

The conditions that cause a super bloom are rare.

For starters, the host region needs a winter (and early spring) with a ton of rain—so much rain that the soil itself never completely dries out. Since December, nearly six inches of rain have fallen in the Anza-Borrego, about twice as much as last year.

Second, the area needs cool temperatures that barely rise above 50 degrees, so all the seedlings are not killled. 

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A quick glance at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park website indicates that the wildflowers can be found mainly in three areas: Borrego Palm Canyon, Henderson Canyon Road, and Coyote Canyon. Most of the wildflowers are accessible by a short hike from the visitor center. Guided hikes also are available for more perspective.

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at