Friday, June 5, 2009

Plant profile: Eschscholzia and other poppies

What bright orange flower is the official flower of California? Hint: April 6 is California Poppy Day.

It was selected as the state flower by the California State Floral Society in December 1890, winning out over the Mariposa lily (genus Calochortus) and the Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) by a landslide. Oh dear - Matilija fans (ie Matt) not amused...

There are several subspecies - we've seen very small, yellow versions in Morro Bay, compared to the bigger, orange versions here in San Francisco.

Latin name: Eschscholzia californica ("eshz-KOL-zee-ah kal-ee-FOR-nik-ah")
Common name: California poppy
Originally from: Well, um, California! Officially, the western United States throughout California, extending to Oregon, southern Washington, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and in Mexico in Sonora and northwest Baja California.
Blooms: February to September, and always covered in bees.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Drought tolerant - in fact, they go floppy if you water them too much!
Where to find in P. Garden: Front beds, top bed and top middle bed.

By the off ramp
I got a big packet of California poppy seeds and sprinkled them liberally in the garden. Quickly, small plants emerged. Assuming they were weeds, I just as quickly pulled them out! Oops. But many survived, and after weeks of watching they started to bloom. Talk about a show! These things are seriously good bang for your buck - a "fling 'em and forget 'em" seed. I've added red California poppy seeds to the top bed too, and "White Linen" in the left bed. Can't wait to see those bloom.

Some clever gardeners have cultivated other various colors, but those seeds didn't germinate for me due to lack of watering I suppose. Bah. Also worth noting is that the poppies hate to be moved with a burning, fiery passion, and will die no matter how careful you are. Lesson learned.

"White Linen"
Interesting note from Wikipedia: "A common misconception associated with the plant, because of its status as a state flower, is that the cutting or damaging of the California poppy is illegal. There is no such law in California, outside of state law that makes it a misdemeanor to cut or remove any plant growing on state or county highways or public lands except by authorized government employees and contractors; it is also against the law to remove plants on private property without the permission of the owner (Cal. Penal Code Section 384a) California Penal Code."

Other plants that are also commonly known as poppies that we have in the garden are the Flanders poppy (left, Papaver rhoeas - red with a black center, in the front bed) and Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri - white with a yellow center, like a fried egg, and very tall (left bed).

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