Posted by: Sandy Steinman | June 24, 2011

California Poppy: Facts, Photos and Surprises

The California Poppy: State flower of California

In 1890 the California Floral Society overwhelming chose the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) to be the state flower over the Mariposa Lily (genus Calochortus) and the Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri).  The state legislature didn’t make it official until 1903.  April 6 is California Poppy Day.

Wikipedia reports:

“Eschscholzia californica was the first named member of the genus Eschscholzia, which was named by the German botanist Adelbert von Chamisso after the Baltic German botanist Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz, his friend and colleague on Otto von Kotzebue’s scientific expedition to California and the greater Pacific in mid-1810s aboard the Russian ship Rurik.”

The California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is both an annual and perennial.  It is often yellow though most people are more familiar with the orange ones.  Here are the different subspecies and varieties:

  • E.californica subsp. californica var. californica is a perennial with yellow flowers and is somewhat prostrate found from San Francisco north along the coast.
  • E. californica subsp. californica var. maritime is a perennial with yellow flowers, is short and very prostrate and found from Monterey south to San Miguel along the coast.
  • E. californica subsp. californica var. crocea is a perennial with orange flowers and is taller and grows in non-arid inland areas.
  • E. California subsp. californica var. peninsularis is an annual and orange growing inland.
  • E. californica subsp. mexicana (the Mexican gold Poppy is found in the Sonoran Desert)

The range for California Poppies is from Southern Washington to Baja California. They can also be found in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora, Mexico.  The Jepson Manual describes the California Poppy as “TOXIC but rarely eaten”.

Larger high quality  version of Sandy’s Slideshow of California Poppies

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Photographer George Lepp did a book and exhibit on California Poppies entitled Golden Poppies of California.  You can see his California Poppy photos in a display on his website called “15 Seasons of California’s State Flower” at:  His work on California Poppies has influenced me to never stop photographing them no matter how many pictures I take.

This is the the Surprise:  In reading The Conscientious Gardner (2011) by Sarah Hayden Reichard, I learned that most California Poppy seed is not grown in California.  The California Department of Transportation reported that all of the seeds used for planting along roadsides come from one source in the Netherlands.  There are concerns that the seed from the Netherlands is hybridizing with the native wild populations of California Poppy.

The California Poppy Festival is held every spring in Lancaster California, which is the home of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.  The next Poppy Festival will be held April 21 and 22 in 2012 California Poppy Festival | April 21st & 22nd 2012

Article on the 10 Best Poppy Meadows:

Sources for this article include:

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