The California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is the state flower of California. The golden state chose that to be its official state flower back in 1903 in part due to the beauty of its orange flowers. Along with being the official state flower, the state also recognizes California Poppy Day each year on April 6th.
So, what is the brief history of California’s cup of gold / golden poppy flower? When did it become the official state flower of California, and why did it become the official state’s flower? Where does this flower grow within the Golden State? Finally, what exactly does this flower represent?
Here is the complete breakdown of what the state flower is in California.
A Brief History of the California State Flower
According to State Symbols USA, Native Americans in California would use the California Poppy plant in their medicines and food. Since this type of wildflower was abundant throughout the land, it was accessible for Native Americans to use in their food.
According to Tweet Speak Poetry, Adelbert von Chamisso came across these flowers when he sailed into San Francisco in 1816. What he thought was a land of gold from a distance was, in fact, just flowers. He later named the flowers he mistook as gold after his friend, Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz.
According to KPCC, the California State Floral Society voted on what should be the state flower in 1890. After the vote, the California Poppy won and was eventually put into the legislature in 1903. Since then, April 6th in California has been known as California Poppy Day, and May 13- 18 is poppy week.
Why is the Eschscholzia californica (California Poppy) the State Flower of California?
The California Poppy is the state flower of California for numerous reasons. First, this is a native plant throughout California since it is drought tolerant and handles poor soil well. With California’s extensive and diverse landscape and climate, this flower can adapt to almost any environment and thrive.
Second, this plant was significant to the Native Americans living off the lands at the time. Native Americans used this plant to make medicines and food, so having it around their grounds was critical for survival.
Third, this plant gives off a “sun-glow” look with its orange flowers. The bright orange look of the flower gives off a “sunny look,” which perfectly resembles the “golden state” and even the gold rush back in the day. Also, Adelbert von Chamisso mistakenly thought the lands of San Francisco were filled with gold as he sailed to it, only to find out later that they were flowers instead.
Do Eschscholzia californica Grow in California?
Eschscholzia californica grows throughout the state of California. In fact, according to Calscape.org, this type of plant grows in Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Washington. They do best in an area that receives full sun, has low moisture, and can tolerate temperatures dropping as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Essentially, you will find this flower throughout states bordering or close to the Pacific ocean.
If you want to see these flowers in person, consider going to The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. This botanical garden is in Northern Los Angeles County and gives breathtaking views of these flowers as far as the eye can see.
Is it Illegal to Pick the California State Flower?
From CBS News, picking the California State Flower is legal unless you do so on state or private property. To be safe, you should instead grow your own instead of picking them. Picking up poppy seeds is relatively cheap, and maintaining these plants doesn’t require much. The climates of California work well for this plant, so you only need to give it a little bit of water and full sun for it to grow healthy and strong.
What Does the Eschscholzia californica Represent and Symbolize?
California flower plants symbolize good health, love, success, and regeneration. The state motto of California is “Eureka,” which fits perfectly with the state flower of success. Since the gold rush of California was such a draw for people to visit and find gold, having a flower that symbolizes success plays perfectly into the state’s motto.
What are Some Facts About the Eschscholzia californica?
The Eschscholzia californica is an annual plant part of the Papaveraceae family that tends to grow from half a foot to 2 feet in height. When the plant blooms, it gives its flowers an orange and yellow look. It tends to grow fast during the spring and only gives off a slight fragrance when you smell it.
The Eschscholzia californica is abundant in southern California and other states bordering the pacific ocean or nearby. The plant is drought-tolerant and can survive temperatures plunging to 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit. Since California is such a big state with different climates, this flower can adapt to most conditions and thrive.
Conclusion: What is the State Flower of California?
The California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is California’s state flower. The flower grows throughout the state and can survive the different climates of the state by being drought tolerant and able to handle frigid temperatures. Not only that, but Native Americans in the state relied on this plant for their food and medicine, which illustrates how important this plant was for people already living in the area.
The flower became the official state flower in 1903 in the Golden State. Since then, the state has had April 6th as California Poppy Day. Also, May 13- 18 is poppy week.
Finally, myths say you can’t pick California poppies. The truth to that myth is that it is legal as long as it is not on state or private property. However, to be safe, it is best to grow your own California poppy plants through seeds every year in your garden. Growing these plants is extremely easy, so it is better to be safe and not pick any, just in case you don’t know the property.