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By Roger Boddaert
Special to the Village News 

The California poppy is blooming


Last updated 4/1/2019 at 2:43pm

Roger Boddaert photos

This Escholtzia californica is found in Temescal Canyon near Lake Elsinore.

What is more glorious and brings the warm feeling that spring is around the corner than our native blooming poppies that are sprinkled throughout the golden state of California?

The genus of plants was named for Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz in the 1800s, and the species is from California.

It was in the late 1880s that the California State Floral Society voted to select a state flower. There were three candidates on the ballot with; Matillija, Calochortus and the California poppy, which won by a landslide and gave the name the Golden State due to the orange-colored poppy flowers.

It is said that the early Spanish explorers called the plant "Copa de Oro" which means 'cup of gold' as they viewed the vibrant and brilliant orange flowers on the coastal slopes from their exploratory sailing ships anchored just offshore.

The California poppy has been used by Native Americans both for food and medicine. Some groups boiled or steamed the plants to be eaten as a green vegetable. Other indigenous peoples use the California poppy to treat toothaches, headaches and as a sedative for babies.

In the movie "Wizard of Oz," Dorothy and friends fell asleep in a field of poppies, a reference to their real-life sedative properties that natives already knew and used as a medicine long before Hollywood got the message

When these tiny little seeds erupt on the hillsides, the desert, the rolling slopes and valleys from the coastal plains and up mountain sides, residents can see one of the true miracles of nature in the equinox of spring. The early fall and winter rains this year have brought about a bounty of wildflowers not seen in such profusion for years.

It is said that because the region has gone through such a long drought cycle, the invasive yellow mustard did not compete this year and that is why the native flowers have been able to be so outstanding.

The poppy family's color spectrum covers the rainbow in hues and tints, not just orange.

One of the petite poppies is the yellow form called Eschscholtzia minutiflora, and it's a real charmer out in a rock garden setting and grows to about 6 inches in height.

Some of the new hybridized poppy flowers have fanciful names like Orange Chiffon, Red Chief, White Linen, Purple Glean, Ivory Castle and more. These cultivars are available from a number of seed catalogs, so get ready next fall and give these unique colors a place in the spring garden setting.

A riot of poppy colors is seen in a Fallbrook garden and cultivars.

The time to sow seeds is traditionally in fall, just before winter rains, so order seeds early and paint the garden with colorful poppies. Poppies enjoy full sunshine from zones of 1-10 which is an incredible range for any plant species located in California, Nevada, Arizona and up into Utah.

When poppies become pollinated by bees or other meandering insects, the seed heads will develop late in the season and, bingo, they pop out next season's seeds with precise horticultural timing resting in their dormant state till next year.

"Lose yourself in nature and find inner peace."

Roger Boddaert Maker of Natural Gardens and the Tree Man of Fallbrook can be reached for consultations and ecological landscape designs at (760) 728-4297.


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