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California Poppy




California Poppy
California Poppy
Eschscholzia californica
(Photo copyright Brother Alfred Brousseau, F.S.C. )

The California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica, is our state flower. It is not hard to see why. They color hillsides throughout the state for much of the Spring. Our best displays are usually to the south of the Harp Chairs, where the hills can be ablaze with Poppies and Goldfields by late April. I have never checked, but it seems to me that C. Poppies actually fluoresce--that is they glow by turning ultraviolet light into orange. Be sure to catch them on a sunny day, as they close up when its too cloudy or dark.
California Poppies are also remarkable for the length of their season. You can often find blooms into late October. Late in the year, what looks like Eschscholzia californica may actually be the smaller Eschscholzia lobbii, or Lobb's Poppy. You may even see a white (albino) one if you are lucky. Another thing to look out for is the way the calyx forms a hood to protect the petals until they are ready to bloom. Once the hood falls off, all that is left is a disk under the petals. Lobb's Poppy does not have a sharp disk, just a raised rim.
California Poppies are (too!) easy to grow. Any pack of C. Wildflower seeds will usually result in a big stand of C. Poppies and little else. Like other poppies, C. Poppies are narcotic. The leaves can be crushed and placed inside the cheek against an aching tooth--or so they say.

Hillside covered in California Poppies
Hillside covered in California Poppies


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