The California Poppy


Said to be found in forest, chaparral (hardy shrubland), grassland, northern coastal scrub, and coastal prairie, California poppies / California gold poppies / Eschscholzia californica seem thought to grow at elevations between -10 and 11,310 feet (-3 and 3447 meters).

According to legend, California poppies are native to western North America: California, coastal Oregon, southern Washington, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and northwestern Baja California.

They seem often thought easy to care for – easy to grow.

Reports suggest that California poppies thrive in full sun, yet may do ok in partial shade.

Some have written that California poppies do best in sandy soils. At least one has written that California poppies prefer clay or loamy soils, and that in sandy soils, they grow poorly. Many seem to agree that California poppies like soil which drains well, and which seems to be nutrient-poor, or, at least, that they seem able to get by with minimal nutrition. It has been suggested that they do best in soils with ph ranging from from 5 – 8; notably acidic to a little bit alkaline. Organic mulch with rocks has been also been recommended.

According to lore, the realms to which California poppies seem thought to have first adapted receive between 3.3 and 108.1 inches of rain per year (8.4 and 274.6 centimeters); between 0.13 and 3.08 inches in summer (0.33 and 7.82 centimeters). It has been said that they are drought-tolerant; that they require little water – a bit once a month or so, perhaps twice in summer.

Though in what seem thought to be their ancestral realms, the coldest month is said to range from 24.6 °Fahrenheit to 61.4 °Fahrenheit, (-4.1 °Celsius to 16.3 °Celsius), and the hottest month is said to range from 45.5 °Fahrenheit to 88.4 °Fahrenheit, (7.5 °Celsius to 31.33 °Celsius), it is written that California poppies may tolerate temperatures down to within a range from 10 °Fahrenheit to 20 °Fahrenheit, (-12 °Celsius to -7 °Celsius). Vapor pressure deficits, the moment to moment drying power of the air, typical to these realms is said to range between 0.01 and 42.13.

It is rumored that California poppies are often unbothered by pests. Rabbits and other small creatures which eat plants seem suspected of having a nibble or three every now and then. Yet, it is said, California poppies tend to grow back rapidly. Thus it seems thought that these creatures rarely do much enduring damage.

Some seem to believe that plants may grow better when near particular other types of plants. Companions suggested for California poppies include: lupines, phacelias, clarkias, abronias, California buckwheat, white sage, Chinese houses (flowers, not homes for humans), and California fuchia.

Some seem to believe that birds, small herbivores, bees, Acmon blue butterflies, Mormon metalmark butterflies, dotted blue butterflies, veined blue butterflies, and buckwheat borer moths find California poppies attractive.

Some seem to suggest that leaves and roots of California poppies may be at least a little bit sedative.

Though at least one story speaks of young spring leaves of California poppies having been boiled and eaten by people indigenous to California, another indicates that California poppies may be poisonous, effecting different individuals to different degrees, and with effects influenced by plant part and stage of development. Yet another story speaks of edible cooked leaves, but includes that many plants in the same family as California poppies are indeed poisonous. Caution is suggested.

According to legend, California poppies are used in bird gardens, butterfly gardens, bee gardens, and to discourage deer from intruding on gardens. According to lore, they may attract large numbers of native bees, and be of use to bumble bees, as well. Their’s seem often included in packets of mixed wildflower seeds.

It has been suggested that, to plant California poppies, one need only to toss some California poppy seeds on soil. It is said that they require no cover by soil, or mulch. It has been recommended that one plant directly where one wishes these poppies to grow, for they tend not to transplant well. Their seeds are said to germinate rapidly, and without pretreatment. Though mature plants may require little water, it seems believed that one might wish to water less developed plants from time to time, until they are established.

California poppies are said to be dicots; plants with two seed leaves usually evident upon sprouting. Their leaves have been described as blue-green to green, feathery, and highly dissected; divided into round, lobed segments.

It has been reported that California poppies grow fast, or, at least, at a moderate speed.

It has been noted that they may achieve heights of up to 3 feet (91 centimeters), though heights of 1 to 2 feet seem noted more often (31 to 61 centimeters). As they grow, they are said to take on an upright, mounding, rounded form.

It is written that California poppies are herbs; that they lack woody tissue when mature.

California poppies are said to present one single flower on each of one or more long stems. Petals are described as satiny orange or yellow with a deep-orange spot at their base; four in number, and of a texture similar to silk. Flowers are said to tend to be between 1 to 3 inches wide (2.54 to 7.62 centimeters). They are also said to close at night, and in cold or windy weather; they are said to open only on sunny days. According to considerable lore, California poppies tend to bloom from February until at least September. At least one source includes October. Another source indicates spring, summer, fall, and winter, and yet another source indicates that, in nature, they bloom from March to May, yet also that they may flower longer with continued watering. The scent of California poppies is said to be slight.

Stories suggest that California poppies fruit slender capsules, 1.18 to 3.54 inches long (3 to 9 centimeters). Seeds are said to be ready to collect when their pods become brown and dry. Left on their own, they are said to split in two, broadcasting many seeds.

Some seem to think of California poppies as perennial. Some seem to think of California poppies as annual. Mildness of climate seems to be thought a deciding factor.

It is written that California poppies are summer deciduous; they may fade in summer heat, yet spring back to life in the fall.


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