© Joseph Dougherty. All rights reserved.
Eschscholzia californica Cham.
The California poppy is a perennial and annual plant, native to the United States, and the official state flower of California. It can grow 5–60 cm tall, with alternately branching glaucous blue-green foliage. The leaves are ternately divided into round, lobed segments. The flowers are solitary on long stems, silky-textured, with four petals, each petal 2–6 cm long and broad; their color ranges from yellow to orange, and flowering is from February to September. The petals close at night or in cold, windy weather and open again the following morning, although they may remain closed in cloudy weather. The fruit is a slender, dehiscent capsule 3–9 cm long, which splits in two to release the numerous small black or dark brown seeds. It is perennial in mild parts of its native range, and annual in colder climates; growth is best in full sun and sandy, well-drained, poor soil.
Taxonomy: The species is highly variable, and over 90 synonyms exist. Some botanists accept two subspecies — one with four varieties (e.g., Leger and Rice, 2003) — though others do not recognise them as distinct (e.g., Jepson 1993):
- E. californica ssp. californica, native to California, Baja California, and Oregon, widely planted as an ornamental, and an invasive elsewhere.
- E. californica ssp. californica var. californica, which is found along the coast from the San Francisco Peninsula north. They are perennial and somewhat prostrate, with yellow flowers.
- E. californica ssp. californica var. maritima (E. L. Greene) Jeps., which is found along the coast from Monterey south to San Miguel Island. They are perennial, long-lived, glaucous, short in stature, and have extremely prostrate growth and yellow flowers.
- E. californica ssp. californica var. crocea (Benth.) Jeps., which grows in non-arid inland regions. They are perennial, taller, and have orange flowers.
- E. California ssp. californica var. peninsularis (E. L. Greene) Munz, which is an annual or facultative annual growing in arid inland environments.
- E. californica ssp. mexicana (E. L. Greene) C. Clark, the Mexican Gold Poppy, which is found in the Sonoran Desert.