USA Newspapers Official California State Flower


Golden Poppy

Eschscholtzia californica)

The Golden Poppy, Eschscholtzia californica, became the state flower in 1903. Every year April 6 is California Poppy Day, and Governor Wilson proclaimed May 13-18, 1996, Poppy Week.

California Indians cherished the poppy as both a source of food and for oil extracted from the plant. Its botanical name, Eschsholtzia californica, was given by Adelbert Von Chamisso, a naturalist and member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, who dropped anchor in San Francisco in 1816 in a bay surrounded by hills of the golden flowers. Also sometimes known as the flame flower, la amapola, and copa de oro (cup of gold), the poppy grows wild throughout California.


Exerpt from:

California's Esteemed Golden Poppy

by Naomi Mathews ([email protected])

More than a hundred years ago on December 12, 1890, the California State Floral Society cast their votes to designate an official flower for California. The three flowers to be voted upon included the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), the Mariposa lily (Calochortus), and the Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri).

Only three persons voted for the Mariposa Lily, whereas no votes were cast for the Matilija Poppy (often called the giant poppy). Consequently, the California Poppy won the esteemed title of "Official California State Flower" by an overwhelming landslide. Research shows that the California Poppy had been first depicted more than 70 years earlier, and that it had a horticultural history of approximately 64 years. It seems very fitting to me that this state's official flower is golden in color. For who doesn't associate "gold" with California? And who doesn't recall the many tales that have been told--some true, others perhaps fable--about the great California Gold Rush! Then there is California's renown nickname of "The Golden State" -- making one think of sunshine and golden sandy beaches!

  • Plant: Fern-like leaves with single flowers on a long stalk
  • Flowers: Feb-Sep, 1-2" (2.5-5cm) across, with four wide fan-shaped petals, many stamens
  • Leaves: 3/4-4" (3-10cm) long divided into narrow segments on long stalks
  • Location: open areas, on grassy or sandy slopes
  • Range: southern California to southern Washington, east to Texas
    It is possible to use this flower in landscaping for a temporary spring display by scattering the seed in the fall. Once established it will self seed. Some yards in Tucson are covered in a bright gold mass of these flowers each spring.

There seems to be some confusion about the scientific name for this flower, various texts list this flower as Eschscholtzia californica var mexicana or Eschscholtzia mexicana. They can't even agree on the spelling of Eschscholtzia, spelling it with and without a 't'. Eschscholtzia or Eschscholzia?

Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta -- Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta -- Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida -- Dicotyledons
Subclass Magnoliidae ?
Order Papaverales ?
Family Papaveraceae ? Poppy family
Genus Eschscholzia Cham. ? California poppy
Species Eschscholzia californica Cham. ? California poppy
Subspecies Eschscholzia californica Cham. ssp. mexicana (Greene) C. Clark ? California poppy