California poppy, cup of gold, Eschscholzia californica, John Thomas Howell, Ravenscourt Gardens, The John Thomas Howell Wildflower Preserve, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, The Natural Gardener
“No poet has yet sung the full beauty of our poppy. No painter has successfully portrayed the satiny sheen of its lustrous petals. In its abundance, this colorful plant should not be slighted: cherish it and be ever thankful that so rare a flower is common.” by John Thomas Howell the author of Marin Flora: Manual of the Flowering Plants and Ferns of Marin County, California
Mr. Howell had a prestigious career as a botanist and has a laboratory and a nature preserve named after him in the Bay area of California. Howell was a curator, affiliated with the California Academy of Sciences, Department of Botany, for 65 years (1929-1994). He began working under Alice Eastwood in 1929 and became her assistant. In 1949, when Eastwood retired, he became curator. He retired in 1968, he continued his active research on California plants as curator emeritus until his death. Along with all his research and important paper he is also know for mentoring amateur and professional botanists. The John Thomas Howell Wildflower Preserve, adjacent to Old St. Hilary’s Landmark in Tiburon California, is home to several rare plants which exist only in the serpentine on the tip of the Tiburon Peninsula. John Thomas Howell, described the area as “one of the most interesting and remarkable and beautiful wildflower gardens in California (and therefore in all the world!)” and marveled that nowhere else in the state could “so many wonderful plants be found in so small a space.”
Eschscholzia californica (California poppy, golden poppy, California sunlight, cup of gold)’ – a species from family Papaveraceae. This poppy is drought-tolerant, self-seeding, and easy to grow. The petals will close at night, or if it is cold, windy or cloudy and open up again in the morning, if the sun is out. Their bloom time is from mid-spring through the summer and into November, if the weather stays warm. In the wild you will find them coverings large meadows and hill and along the highways. A good example is The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. At the peak of the blooming season, orange petals seem to cover all 1,745 acres. California poppy leaves were used by Native Americans medicinally, the pollen was used in cosmetics and they cooked the seeds. It is considered potentially invasive in the United States, however no ill effects have been reported. Unfortunately in Southern California it is being replaced in it own native habitat with more invasive species like mustard and annual grasses.
If you want to growing it in your own garden, it is best to treat it as an an annual and plant it in a sunny spot. California poppies like sandy, well-drained, poor soil. Perfect in Austin, not so much in Houston, with our clay soil. It is native to California, extending into Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora and northwest Baja California. Mexicans call it copa de oro — the cup of gold.
It became the official state flower of California in 1903. It grows along the highways and back road and is just stunning when you come upon the beautiful orange/yellow blooms. They can vary in color from yellow orange with an orange center to deep orange with a yellow center. Being beautiful and easy to grow, they are cultivated all over the world, in places with similar Mediterranean climates.
I saw them growing in gardens all around Austin this past weekend. And it made me a bit home sick! Yes, I am a native to California too!