The California poppy grows in open and grassy areas below 6,500 feet in elevation. The flower is common in the western United States. It is the official California state flower. In addition to California, the poppies are also common in Oregon, southern Washington, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and in parts of Mexico. April 6th is the official Poppy Day.
The flower is easily recognized by its bright yellow or orange color. It usually grows just above the grass, growing to under 2 feet in height. The stems are usually long and very narrow. The crown has 4 broad petals. The species of this flower is highly diverse, with approximately 90 variations of the plant noted by botanists.
The poppies flower from February to September, but can often be seen year-round. The fruit of the poppies is a slender and releases numerous small black or dark brown seeds. The flower is self-reproducing.
The poppy petals usually close during the evening and at night, and open again during the day. It is a way to adopt to the cold and windy climates of the open spaces and winds from the Pacific Ocean as is the case in California. An interesting fact is that if the weather stays bad throughout the day, the petals do not open.
The flower is well-adapted for cold and windy environments, but it thrives in sunny and open spaces. If the environment is not too cold it can stay in bloom all year. California Poppies require wet soil, which is the environment along the Pacific Ocean coast since even during the dry season, the fog from the ocean brings in the moisture.
Since the flowers are easy to cultivate and do not require too much attending to, but are still quite attractive, they are popular to plant and grow in home gardens. It can survive droughts and bad weather and is one of the better flowers for beginner gardeners because after it is planted, it makes the garden look pretty without requiring too much care and savvy.
Be careful about planting this flower next to other sensitive plants. Since it grows so easily, it can take away the space and the resources of other, more sensitive plants.
The California Poppy was named by the German botanist Adelbert von Chamisso after a scientific expedition to California and the greater Pacific in mid 1810s. The flower was selected as the California state flower by the California State Floral Society in 1890. Before the Bay Area and the greater California was settled by the many different cultures that have come to the area over the last 150 years, the poppy leaves were used by the native Ohlone Indians for medicinal, cosmetic, and household purposes. The flower can even be used in smoking and is known to be mildly sedative.
While the flower can be found in many Bay Area and northern California parks and preserves, here are some parks known for their beautiful wildflower displays: