The California poppy, also known as the golden poppy, cup of gold, or California sunlight, is the official state flower of California. In a bittersweet nod to California's "gold rush" past, this flower was chosen as the state's official emblem on March 2, 1903. The bright orange flowers of the California poppy are an unrivaled symbol of the Golden State, and were perhaps taken to symbolize the "fields of gold" sought after by prospectors at the time of the gold rush.
The California poppy was given its scientific name, Eschscholzia californica, by naturalist Adelbert von Chamisso. He named it after a surgeon and entomologist, J.F Eschocholtz, who was also on board the same Russian ship, Rurick, exploring the North Americas. While this flower blossoms in the "wild," it can be easily sowed in your home garden. However, the most magnificent views are in natural fields.
The golden poppies were a medicinal staple for indigenous communities. However, consuming the raw flower can cause severe illness. In areas with little other plant life, the California poppy can easily reseed itself, making it a good choice for wild and garden plantings.
The California poppy is mentioned in a number of Chumash folktales. On earth, when animals were people, Lizard described to Coyote the California poppies out on the islands: “When you see it, it is as if the sun itself is on the ground.”
Because the flowers of the California poppy close at night, the Spanish gave it the name Dormidera, which means "to fall asleep." The Spanish also used the petals to make a hair dressing by boiling them in olive oil and perfume.
Early Spaniards, seeing the brilliant poppy fields on the hills as they sailed along the coast, dubbed this place "the land of fire." Only ten years after the species was first described were California poppy seeds collected and donated to the Royal Botanical Society in England. However, the most rapid world travels at the end of the California gold rush. When returning to their far-flung homes, miners frequently brought gardening seeds with them. Seed was also spread in the ballast of ships and as a contaminant of alfalfa seed.
California poppy has become a widespread weed in Chile and Australia. Due to concerns that it is toxic to animals, it poses a danger to wildlife habitats. At least one source claims that the rapid proliferation of California poppies has rendered large tracts of once-productive grazing land useless.
The golden poppy is a perennial or annual (in colder climates) flower that blooms from spring to early summer. It can withstand dry conditions and still look stunning thanks to its vibrant orange petals. Besides the gold rush floral symbolism, the flower can represent success, peace, love, or good tidings. It displays its breathtaking petals and folds during chilly mornings and evenings.
Here are a few places we recommend visiting to get the best Poppy viewing experience. Mount Diablo State Park is usually the best place in Northern California. In Santa Ynez, The grassy slopes of Figueroa Mountain visible from the road as you drive in, are blanketed in orange poppies when they bloom. In Los Angeles, the Gorman Flower Hills explode with color. Orange poppies dot the hills, accented with blues and purples to create a beautiful canvas you can view from beside the road.
The California poppy is a beloved symbol of the Golden State, representing its history, natural beauty, and resilience. With its bright orange petals and delicate structure, this flower is a testament to the state's rugged landscape and the spirit of those who call it home. As a drought-resistant plant, the California poppy serves as a reminder of the importance of conservation and sustainability in our world. Whether admired in the wild or grown in a home garden, the California poppy is a true treasure and a fitting representative of the great state of California.