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Featured Plant

Eschscholzia californica


Scientific Name: Eschscholzia californica

Common Names: California Poppy

Family: Papaveraceae

Plant Type: Perennial, grown elsewhere as an annual

Environment: Likes full sun. Does not transplant well, sow seeds where plants are to grow and protect from foraging birds. Low water requirements.

Bloom: Flowers in spring/summer. Extra water will extend the bloom time.

Uses: Very attractive to native butterflies. Native Americans used the roots and leaves of this plant as a narcotic and the pollen as a cosmetic.

Other: Jepson Flora Project



Eschscholzia californica

The true gold of California lies in its fields of poppies that appear each spring in the valleys and foothills. The California poppy's gray fern-like foliage and the unwinding of its brilliant petals as the sun warms the air, is a daily delight of a spring morning. A cloud cover or a rainy day has the opposite effect, and the petals close to protect the pollen. Our native people found a narcotic in its roots for helping toothaches.

In 1816 the Russian sailing vessel, Rurik, anchored off the Presidio and the ship's surgeon on board, Johann Eschscholzia, and Albert Chamisso, the Rurik's naturalist, began to collect and identify forty new specimen of plants growing around the shores of the Bay. Chamisso named their brightest discovery, the poppy, after his friend. The relics of their collections still reside in the archives of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

In 1890, Eschscholzia californica was selected as the state flower, winning out over the mariposa lily (genus Calochortus), and the Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) by a landslide.


Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor; profile by Fred Bové


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