California Poppy

Eschscholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica, Photo by Lara Hartley

Color: Gold to red

Common name: California poppy

Latin name: Eschscholzia californica


Height: 2-24 inches

Description: The flowers are solitary on long stems, silky-textured, with four petals, each petal 2–6 cm long and broad. The plant can be a perennial herb from a heavy taproot, erect or spreading, without hairs. It is sometimes covered with a waxy, whitish or blueish film that is easily rubbed off.

Eschscholzia californica, Photo by Lara Hartley

Leaf: The leaves are divided into three round lobed segments.

Range: Mojave Desert, California Floristic Province, w East of Sierra Nevada

Habitat: Grassy, open areas

Elevation: 0–2000 m.

Flowering time: Feb–Sep

Notes: Eschscholzia californica, a dicot, is an annual or perennial herb that is native to California and is also found outside of California, but is confined to western North America. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is located in northern Los Angeles County, California. At the peak of the blooming season, orange petals seem to cover all 1,745 acres (706 ha) of the reserve. Other prominent locations of California poppy meadows are in Bear Valley (California, Colusa County), Point Buchon and numerous other locations.

Horticulture: Eschscholzia californica, given full or nearly full sun (tolerates summer afternoon sun), grows especially well in zones 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 and also in zones 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Given moderate summer watering, and full or nearly full sun (tolerates summer afternoon sun), grows in zone 13. Cultivars available in the horticultural trade. E. californica is named after Russian naturalist, J.F. Eschscholtz, 1793–1831 and is the California State Flower. Certain Indian tribes chewed the petals like chewing gum and a potion made from the roots was used as a remedy for a toothache.

We have an online wildflower field guide that is designed to help you identify desert wildflowers by color, scientific name, region and common name. The pictures are sized to work on the iPod, iPhone, iPad and similar devices. With your iPod or phone you will easily be able to identify wildflowers while in the desert. Links for downloads are on the bottom of the Wildflower Field Guide page.

Photo tips: Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have a macro function - usually symbolized by the icon of a little flower. When you turn on that function, you allow your camera to get closer to the subject, looking into a flower for example. Or getting up close and personal with a bug. More on desert photography.

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