Rare 'Super Bloom' Blankets Death Valley in a Carpet of Wildflowers

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A colorful patch of wildflowers blanket the Death Valley landscape. (Photo: Harun Mehmedinovic)

If you've never visited or read about Death Valley National Park, you might assume from the name that it's a barren wasteland devoid of life, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, it may hold the distinction of being the hottest, driest and lowest-lying area in North America, but believe it or not, Death Valley is teeming with biodiversity.

There's no better visual demonstration of this than the thousands of cheerful wildflowers that paint the national park in gold, purple and pink every spring. And thanks to favorable weather conditions tied to this year's El Nino pattern, 2016 is proving to be an exceptional year for Death Valley's wildflowers.

It all starts with unusually heavy winter rains caused by El Nino. As this excess amount of water sinks deep into the valley's soil, seeds that have laid dormant underground for many years begin to awaken and sprout. The result of this natural process is a thick proliferation of flowery vegetation known as a "super bloom."

In the time-lapse video below, photographer Harun Mehmedinovic provides a breathtaking glimpse of 2016's magnificent super bloom at its peak — all framed by the millions of glimmering stars in the Milky Way:

The video is just one jaw-dropping installment of SKYGLOW, an ongoing photography project that Mehmedinovic started with friend Gavin Heffernan to explore the effects of light pollution on nature. Produced in collaboration with BBC and the International Dark-Sky Association, the SKYGLOW videos examine "the effects and dangers of urban light pollution in contrast with some of the most incredible Dark Sky Preserves in North America."

With its international certification as as a Dark Sky Park in 2013, Death Valley National Park makes a natural fit for the project, and this rare explosion of wildflowers is just icing on the cake.

A carpet of gold wildflowers (Geraea canescens) in Death Valley. (Photo: Harun Mehmedinovic)

"To many, the most spectacular of these wildflowers are Geraea canescens, the Desert Gold, which blanket the lower elevations along the Badwater road," explains Mehmedinovic.

Alan Van Valkenburg, a park ranger who has lived in the Death Valley area for 25 years, explains in the video below that super blooms of this magnitude are quite rare and only occur about once every decade.

"If you get the chance to see a bloom in Death Valley, especially a super bloom, you should take the opportunity to see it because it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Valkenburg says.

Death Valley isn't the only desert that has experienced a burst of wildflowers in the past year. A similar El Nino-fueled "super bloom" occurred in the Atacama Desert of Chile just a few months earlier as the Southern Hemisphere experienced spring.

The Milky Way glimmers over the Death Valley super bloom. (Photo: Harun Mehmedinovic)