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California Poppy
- Eschscholzia californica

Common Name(s):California Poppy
Scientific Name:Eschscholzia californica
Family:Papaveraceae (Poppy)
Plant Type:Annual
Size:up to 24 inches
Habitat:meadows, coastal sage scrub, sandy riparian areas
Blooms:February to September
Fire Response:Germinate from Seed

Our state flower, the California Poppy, blooms from February to September, most frequently in grasslands but it can be found throughout the state in part due to wide distribution of seed packets.

California Poppy's leaves are 1 to 2 inches long and cleft into many segments, forming a rosette at the plant's base. The solitary flowers are found nodding at the ends of 2 to 6 inch long stems, with 4 petals up to 2 1/2 inches long. The petals' color ranges from vibrantly orange to bright yellow, or sometimes a gradation of both. Petals close up at the close of day and may not open on a cloudy day, hence the plant was sometimes referred to as "the drowsy one". A small light pink disk called a torus separates the petals from the stem; if you encounter a plant that looks like the poppy but is absent the torus, you are instead looking at Eschscholzia caespitosa, the California collarless poppy. California Poppy should be considered toxic and has narcotic properties.

The genus name Eschscholzia comes from a 19th century Eastern European surgeon, entomologist and botanist named Dr. Johann Friedrich Gustav von Eschscholtz. California Poppy is one of the first plants to repopulate an area that has experienced fire.

Did The Chumash Use This Plant?

Jan Timbrook's "Chumash Ethnobotany" specifically stated that none of John Harrington's consultants mentioned any use of this plant by the Chumash (page 86). Please note that pages 15-17 of this book describe the inherent biases of Harrington's interviews and notes. Read more about Mr. Harrington According to the USDA, California poppy may be toxic when taken internally without sufficient preparation. Source document. The USDA web site also mentions that some tribes used the plants and some did not. "The California poppy has cultural significance for many indigenous people of the western United States including the Luiseno, Cahuilla, Costanoan and Pomo tribes. While some tribes consider the plant poisonous, such as the Mahuna, most make routine use of the plant, or specific parts of the plant, as both a food source and drug. The roots, which generally contain higher levels of alkaloids, have been used as sedatives and analgesics (Moerman, 1998); one reference notes the stupefying effect being used to stun companions when gambling (Foster and Hobbs, 2002). The flowers, high in carotenoids and somewhat sweet, may be chewed as a gum or candy, while the rich pollen of the flowers serves as eye shadow or body paint for special occasions."

Contributed by Liz Baumann - updated by George Sherman

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Featured Plants in the Papaveraceae (Poppy) Family:

California Poppy - Originally featured: December 2012
Last modified: May 17 2024 13:51:10.
Number of Images: 17
Image Size Total: 6,264,575


Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Chumash Ethnobotany: Plant Knowledge Among the Chumash People, by Jan Timbrook
Leaf Shapes Primer - Botanical Terms for Leaves: - Link

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