The California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a popular garden flower of the poppy family, Papaveraceae. It is native to California and the southwestern United States, and has naturalized in Australia, Chile, and South Africa. It was named by the German romantic poet and explorer Adelbert von Chamisso after his friend and colleague on the Otto von Kotzebue scientific expedition to California in the early 19th century, the Baltic German Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz.
Each plant branches toward the base into many stems, each with a single, four-petaled yellow or orange bloom about 2 inches (50 mm) wide. It is drought-tolerant and easy to grow; seeds and seedlings are sold commercially in other places with suitable climate, such as parts of Australia. It readily naturalizes (reseeds).
Horticulturalists have produced strains with various other colors and blossom and stem forms. These typically do not breed true on reseeding.
This plant is the state flower of California, where it may readily be seen in the spring and early summer in many parts of the state.
A common myth is that it is illegal to cut or otherwise damage California poppies just because it is the state flower. There is no such law. There is a state law that makes it a misdemeanor to cut or remove any flower, tree, shrub or other plant growing on state or county highways (with an exception for authorized government employees and contractors). (See Cal. Penal Code Section 384a.)
California poppy leaves were used medicinally by Native Americans, and the pollen was used cosmetically.
The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is located in northern Los Angeles County, California. At the peak of their blooming season orange petals seem to cover all 1,745 acres (7 km²) of the reserve.
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