Scientific Name: Dendromecon hartfordii
Common Names: California Tree Poppy
Plant Type: Perennial, evergreen shrub or small tree. Can grow up to 20'
Environment: Coarse, well-drained soil, full sun. Drought tolerant once established.
Bloom: Free flowering July - April. Scattered flowers throughout the rest of the year. Blooms smell like melon candy.
Uses: Flowers attract nectar-loving insects and birds; also offers some cover. High ornamental value, since flowers and foliage are attractive in all seasons with little water or care.
Nothing is cheerier for a hiker to see as he trudges through the dry chaparral of the California foothills than a tree poppy in full bloom. They thrive there along with their drought companions, manzanita and coffeeberry, and grow from Sonoma County all the way down to Baja California and the Channel Islands, needing a hot sun, mild winters, and good drainage.
The shrubs can reach fifteen feet, "lighting up hillsides," according to botanist Nevin Smith, having tough, evergreen leaves with a bluish tint that gives them sun protection. The blooms though smaller in size than the California poppy, and more yellow than orange, have the same exuberant flush of stamens in their centers and the same satiny touch to their petals.
Dendromecon harfordii is endemic to Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands with leaves entire, (without teeth) and rounded tips. D. rigida, more often called "bush poppy," grows on the mainland, is smaller in size, with leaves finely toothed and sharp tips. The seeds develop within a capsule and explode when ready, flinging seeds in all directions.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Joanne Taylor, Text by Kathy McNeil, Profile by Fred Bové