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Wildflowers are popping up across the Western United States

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Wildflowers are popping up across the western United States, blanketing the hills of Arizona and Southern California in brilliant colors. This year, the so-called superbloom is so big it can be seen in satellite images from space.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

But what exactly defines a superbloom? Nick Jensen, conservation program director with the California Native Plant Society, has the answer.

NICK JENSEN: It's a phenomenon in which there are large numbers of wildflowers - typically annuals - that grace large swaths of the state in selected areas where those conditions are favorable in years with good rainfall.

MARTIN: But rain is not the only essential ingredient to a successful superbloom season.

JENSEN: One of the things that has to be in place is a seed bank.

MARTÍNEZ: And those seed banks might be lurking in places you would not expect. So picture this. You're taking a walk through Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth, but just below your burning footsies...

JENSEN: You're probably walking over thousands and thousands of wildflower seeds. And the seeds are essentially live plants in a state of dormancy hanging out in the soil, waiting for the conditions to be right.

MARTIN: Jensen says when the temperature is right and there are not invasive plant species to compete with, the seeds have a better chance to sprout. Oh, and, of course, it takes a lot of water.

JENSEN: And voila. We have a wonderful display of wildflowers.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, if you're planning to visit the blooms, Jensen asks that you educate yourself about the plants and watch where you step.

JENSEN: So they don't pop their picnic blanket out on a population of rare plants or beautiful wildflowers. You know, is this just a bunch of poppies or is this a diversity of plants?

MARTIN: Jensen believes that if visitors engage with the environment in a safe and thoughtful way, it will help protect these flowers for years to come.

(SOUNDBITE OF ACOUSTIC VALLEY'S "FLOWERS (INSTRUMENTAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.