Along with spring comes the appearance of wildflowers, but much of the wildflower show and spread in Northern Nevada depends significantly upon one thing: the amount of water received. Few people would argue that that has been a recent problem. In Reno alone, total rainfall precipitation reached 5.25 inches for January 2017, whereas normal January rainfall precipitation is 1.02 inches, according to U.S. climate data.
"Whenever you have had good moisture, you're going to have good germination rates," said Heidi Kratsch, northern area horticulture specialist with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. "You're going to see much larger areas of wildflowers than you do in dry years."
Even so, the first wildflowers may only begin to dot the Northern Nevada landscape in April or May. The key to this year's wildflower show could be abundance since more movement of seeds likely will result from the increased moisture.
"You are going to have more seeds that germinate," she said. "The seeds may move around to areas where you have not seem them before because of the flooding we've had. They could be pushed down to different elevations or from one place to another."
That said, here are three wildflowers that you may be able to spot earliest in the spring.
Say "wallflower," and it evokes a picture of someone trying to blend in, but that is not the case with the Wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) wildflower. Not only is this one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring, it can be found in and recognized across much of the United States. It stands out because of the cluster of bright orange or yellow flowers at the top of its stem.
"It is a kind of yellowish flower that can be found across a wide range of elevations," Kratsch said. "It is noticeable because it is so bright. Sometimes, it can still come up when there is snow on the ground."
Wallflowers can range in height from a half-foot tall to 3 feet tall, but definitely will not be 3 feet early in the spring, Kratsch said. Wallflowers can be found at a variety of elevations in the area, mostly from 6,000 to 13,000 feet.
"Capitatum means 'cap', and that refers to the cluster of flowers at the cap, or at the head, of the plant," Kratsch said.
This perennial wildflower has four petals on each of its inch-long flowers, and belongs to the mustards genus.
The Tiny Trumpet (Collomia linearis) is a wildflower suggestive of its own name. It is part of the phlox family and can be found on the Eastern side of the Sierra. It has white flowers that could have a tinge of pink or violet at the base of its petals while the Collomia grandiflora is more likely to have a tinge of salmon at its petal base.
"Collomia linearis is a pretty common plant," Kratsch said. "It's an annual and it doesn't stick around for long. It's kind of cool – it kind of makes you realize that spring is coming."
Tiny Trumpets can found in the shrub steppe, which refers to the semi-arid natural grassland that also is home to some types of shrubs. Collomia linearis is the most widespread of Collomia and can be found in all Western states. It has a thin stalk with pointy leaves that can be up to 3.5 inches long, and at height the plant itself can reach from 4 inches to 2 feet tall. Its flowers are what make it unique: They have five petals each, are trumpet shaped and only about a quarter-inch wide.
Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) is a flower that can easily be mistaken for a daisy, Kratsch said.
"This is [a wildflower] that you're going to see a lot of up Mount Rose Highway as well, right about 6,500 feet," she said. "They are very very showy and they look like sunflowers. The blooms usually follow the sun, so that in the morning, they are looking east and toward the end of the day, they are looking west."
The flower is actually part of the Asteraceae, or sunflower, family. Plants can reach about 1 to 2 feet tall and boast a woolly stem and leaves that kids (and adults) may enjoy touching. Arrowleaf balsamroot can be found in open sunny areas. The flowers, which are three to five inches across, are bright colored like the yellow of sunshine. Arrowleaf balsamroot might appear as early as April, but the showing of these and other wildflowers depends on an area's climate. That has changed in the area, Kratsch said.
"When you live in a mountainous area, in a high desert kind of area, because of the sometimes unpredictable patterns, it can be hard to know year-to-year when to really anticipate something," she said. "A lot of people will keep records and track year-to-year when flowers first appear."
Climate change has definitely impacted the appearance of wildflowers in the region, Kratsch said.
"Enough people have noticed that things are starting to bloom earlier than they did 20 years ago," she said.