Eschscholzia californica: California Poppy, Copa de Oro
The California Poppy is a member of the Papaveraceae family which consists of 42 genera and approximately 800 species. It is named for Johann Friedrich Von Eschscholtz, a German botanist who explored California in 1810.
Eschscholzia californica became the official state flower in 1902, beating out the Mariposa Lily (Calochotrus) and the Matilija Poppy (Romneya) for the honor.
Eschscholzia californica is an herbaceous annual or biennial, 6 inches to two feet in height and spread. The leaves are blue-grey-green, glaucus and finely divided into linear segments. The leaves are primarily basal and attach to a long, thin carrot-like taproot.
The flowers have four bright orange, silky petals, 1-2 inches long, and bloom from February through September. The flower has numerous stamens and one pistil attached to a superior ovary.
The flowers close at night or in windy conditions to help conserve water. The seed pod is a single chambered linear tube; 1½ - 3 inches long and 1/8 inches in diameter, containing 50 or more seeds. The seeds are round, dark brown to black in color and less than a thirty-second of an inch in diameter.
Eschscholzia californica is native to the Western United States and Northern Mexico from sea level to 6,000 feet in elevation. It is commonly found in large colonies in open meadows and hillsides, and is tolerant of most soil types, but prefers well-drained loam and full sun.
California Poppy leaves and roots contain several useful medicinal compounds in the form of alkaloids.
The main alkaloids are Chelirubine, Sanguinarine and Macarpine, which are used as an analgesic, sedative and antispasmodic. The seeds were also consumed by Native Americans as a source of protein.
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There are several other species of Eschscholzia native to California:
Eschscholzia caespitosa: Tufted Poppy have tufted foliage and yellow flowers
Eschscholzia lemmonii: Lemon’s Poppy have leaves are whitish and pubescent.
Eschscholzia minutiflora: Pigmy Poppy plant is less than 3 inches tall.
Eschscholzia ramose: Island Poppy don flowers that are less than ½ inch in diameter.
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Ojai native plant guide Lanny Kaufer will lead an herb walk at Arroyo Hondo Preserve located on the Gaviota Coast north of Santa Barbara on Saturday, July 20, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The walk will conclude with a direct-from-the-grower native plant sale hosted by Santa Barbara Natives (SBN), a native plant nursery founded by Arroyo Hondo Preserve manager John Warner.