mid-March to mid-May
Named in 1816 by naturalist Adelbert Von Chamisso, who sailed into San Francisco Bay and found the hills covered in gold (poppies, not ore)
California Poppy Day is celebrated every April 6.
The California Poppy is a small plant, with one flower per slender stem. A mature plant may be as short as two inches, yet the hardy seeds for which poppies are known can spread far and wide and take root in sandy, difficult soil where other plants’ seeds may fail.
The seeds actually prefer to take root in “disturbed” soil, which has been broken by anything from farm tractors to footprints. In fact, a short distance away from Los Angeles, you’ll find the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, a high desert area where the flower practically covers every square inch of the 1,745-acre site.
Growing wild throughout the state, the California Poppy was an important resource for the indigenous people of California, who used it for both food and oil. They also used the pollen as a colorful cosmetic. The state flower actually grows wild as far north as southern Washington state and as far south as Baja, Mexico. It is most closely associated with California, not just for its name but also for the state’s vast ranges of rolling hills turned golden by its delicate petals.
Being a drought-resistant flower, the California Poppy has adapted well to the California climate growing successfully everywhere in the state. It was therefore quite easy for Californians to bring this hardy wildflower into their home gardens — adding color and attracting pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds.
The California state flower has spread to other parts of the country and also to South America and Australia. Its other names include La Amapola (flame flower), Copa de Oro (cup of gold), and Dormidera (the drowsy one), due to the flower’s tendency to open its petals later in the morning than most other wildflowers.
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