The California Poppy is the official state flower of California. The state’s renowned author, John Steinbeck, described it as evoking the color of cream that would rise from molten gold, if that were possible. It is indeed beautiful to behold in mass, but there’s no challenge in that. A hiker fortunate enough to come across a single poppy on a California sand dune must think, “Eureka! I have found one.”
In the wildflower field, the flower adds a pop of creamy orange that plays well off the bright yellows of the Brittle Bush and the Desert Marigold. According to Matt Ritter, author of California Plant – A Guide to Our Iconic Flora, the first specimen collected for western recordings was during a Russian exploration and is housed in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
When the California Poppy blooms, it sends up a sepal, which is a green, cone-shaped protective shell. The flower pushes through the sepal when it blooms. A fruit that dries follows the bloom. When it’s ready to disperse seeds, it does so forcibly and can make a popping sound. Hence the name, Poppy.
The wildflower field at Sunnylands is overseeded annually with native wildflowers and bunch grasses. This provides visitors with a view of the larger cyclical bloom cycles that we have in the desert. Starting in February, a variety of native species and bunch grasses begin emerging. Each year the vegetation varies slightly, depending on which seed dominates the space. The field can range in color from purples to oranges, whites, and pinks, with a variety of combinations. We cannot guarantee that all wildflowers will be present each year.