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FLORA OF THE Valley : CALIFORNIA POPPY

May 11, 1987|MAYERENE BARKER

California poppies, which in the spring usually turn hillsides to orange and lure wildflower lovers on Sunday rides in the desert, are not blooming in their usual abundance this year.

The dry winter has caused poppy lovers to search throughout rural areas for a look at the flowers. Even in the Antelope Valley, famous for its wildflowers, there are few poppies.

But near Gorman, on California 138 near Quail Lake, a few fields of California poppies are in evidence. Because of the area's higher elevation, the poppies thrived here more than in lower desert areas this year. The flowers are found in open areas and grassy slopes from Southern California to southern Washington.

The California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) is California's state flower and has orange or yellow-orange flowers one to two inches wide. The flowers, borne singly on a long stalk, have four fan-shaped petals. The fern-like leaves are three-fourths to 2 1/2 inches long and are divided into narrow segments.

Poppy stalks grow from eight to 24 inches high and often are cultivated.

Sunny days are best for viewing poppies in bloom. The flowers love sunlight, but close up at night and on cloudy days. Their spicy fragrance attracts beetles, which are the flowers' pollinators.

Poppies that bloom early in the season, usually lasting from February to September, tend to be larger than those blossoming later.

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