California Poppy

There are lots of places to see poppies in bloom in California.

There are lots of places to see poppies in bloom in California.

Few sights are more striking than a field or hillside ablaze with California poppies in bloom. If you’d like to see the poppies yourself, the experts at California State University suggest visiting the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve or any of the other outlying areas around Lancaster, California. Another good viewing site is near the Grapevine in the hills east of Gorman, California. The best time to view them at any site is in April.


Scientifically known as Eschscholzia californica, the California poppy plant was first described in 1820 and named after Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, a naturalist. California poppies have ferny foliage and grow from 2 to 24 inches in height. They bloom February through September, although the flowers close up in the evening and on overcast days. They may appear delicate, but they are far from it, tolerating both drought and neglect.


Although there were three flowers under consideration to take on the role of California’s state flower, there was no real contest. When put to a vote, the Mariposa lily received three votes, and the matilija poppy received none. The California poppy was overwhelmingly the choice of almost everyone that voted for the state flower. In March of 1903, the golden poppy was named the official floral emblem of the state of California. Seventy years later, April 6th became California Poppy Day, further proving how much the flower means to the residents of the Golden State


If you live in California, the poppy is the easiest plant you’ll ever grow: no soil preparation, no fussing with fertilizers, and almost no water are required. Throw the seeds onto the soil, keep the top 4 inches of soil moist as they germinate, and then leave them alone. Unless there is a long stretch without rain, poppies don't require watering.


California’s Native American tribes used the golden poppy extensively for medicine and food. The foliage was boiled or roasted on hot stones and used as greens, the flowers were used to create a tonic to treat head lice, and some tribes made a poultice from the root for toothaches and headaches. Today, the poppy still grows wild all over the state and is cultivated in the home garden. The California poppy isn’t a standalone specimen plant. It is best sown en masse to create a golden carpet in the landscape. They’re also the ideal for the border, again planted in groups. Good companion plants include larkspur and bachelor’s buttons.

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