Why carpets of flowers are now thriving in the 'driest place on earth'

The Atacama Desert in Chile is bursting with colorful flowers after a historic amount of rainfall.  

Courtesy: Reuters
A video screen grab shows the mallow plant bloom in Chile's Atacama Desert.

A rare bloom has turned part of the arid Chilean desert into a sea of brilliant pink flowers.

The Atacama Desert, the driest non-polar place in the world that spans from Chile to Peru, has been transformed into a lush carpet of wildflowers, a phenomenon that only occurs when enough rain has fallen, the Spanish news service EFE reports

Devastating floods in the country's north region earlier this year killed 25 people and left thousands homeless. Experts say that the strong rains are behind this year's particularly gorgeous natural event.

"The Atacama region was punished, but also blessed by the phenomenon of a flourishing desert, something that happens only after the rains, this time brought about by El Niño and climate change," Daniel Diaz, National Tourism Service director in Atacama, told EFE.

"The intensity of blooms this year has no precedent," Diaz said. "And the fact that it has happened twice in a same year has never been recorded in the country's history. We are surprised."

The Atacama Desert is home to over 200 plant species. Mallow is the most dominant of these flowers, covering the desert in pink blooms.

“The malva (or mallow) flowers on the floor of the Atacama desert bloom every five to seven years, usually coinciding with El Niño. But they have been taking advantage of this year’s particularly rainy conditions, leading to the 'most spectacular blossoming of the past 18 years,'” the Washington Post reports.

This year’s El Niño is expected to be one of the strongest on record. El Niño – Spanish for 'the boy' – is an anomalous warming in the Pacific Ocean that forms every two to seven years. 

The floral phenomenon happening in the Chilean desert is known as a "flowering desert" and is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. According to Chilean tourism officials, 2015 is one of the strongest flowering years in nearly two decades. 

The spectacle will not last for much longer as the landscape is expected to return to normal in November.

The Chilean desert is not the only arid place that blooms after a rainy season. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, each spring, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, located in the desert's western tip, explodes into a sea of orange California poppies.

The Utah desert also bursts with colorful flowers after a heavy rain season.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why carpets of flowers are now thriving in the 'driest place on earth'
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today