California Poppy ( Eschscholzia californica)

.Botanical Name : Eschscholzia californica
Family: Papaveraceae
Genus: Eschscholzia
Species: E. californica
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ranunculales
Parts Used: Aerial parts

Synonyms:  Eschscholzia douglasii.

Common Names : California poppy, Californian poppy,  Golden poppy, California sunlight, Cup of gold
Habitat:   Eschscholzia californica  is native to   Western N. America – ——-Washington to California and Nevada. A frequent garden escape in Britain. Grassy open places to 2000 metres in California

Description:      Eschscholzia californica  is a  perennial herb, with spreading stems, growing up to 2 feet tall with alternately branching glaucous blue-green foliage. The leaves are ternately divided into round, lobed segments. The leaves are divided many times into fine greenish- gray segments. Conspicuous flowers range in color from bright yellow to deep orange and have four petals and many stamens. to see the pictures.>..(01)......…(1)….…..….(2)..…….…(3)...………………….

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 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.

It grows well in disturbed areas and often recolonizes after fires. In addition to being planted for horticulture, revegetation, and highway beautification, it often colonizes along roadsides and other disturbed areas. It is drought-tolerant, self-seeding, and easy to grow in gardens.

Cultivation :
Succeeds in a hot dry position. Plants grow well in maritime climates. A very ornamental plant, it is commonly grown in the flower garden and there are many named varieties. This plant is the state flower of California. Although a perennial it is usually quite short-lived and is more often grown as an annual in this country. It can tolerate temperatures down to about -10°c, however, and often survives mild winters. If the dead flowers are removed before they set seed the plant will continue flowering for a longer period. A polymorphic species. Plants resent root disturbance and should be sown in situ. The flowers are very attractive to bees. They close during wet or overcast weather. Plants often self-sow if the soil is disturbed by some means such as hoeing. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, Suitable for cut flowers, Extended bloom season in Zones 9A and above.

Seed – sow in mid spring or late summer to early autumn in a sunny border outdoors and only just cover the seed.  Autumn sown plants may require protection from frosts in cold winters. The seed usually germinates in 2 – 3 weeks.

Edible Uses:…..Leaves – cooked. This plant is in a family that contains many poisonous plants so some caution is advised in using it.

Constituents: Califonidine, eschscoltzin, protopine, N-methyllaurotanin, allocryptopine, cheleryytrine and sanguinarine.
Medicinal Uses:

Anodyne; Antianxiety; Antidepressant; Antispasmodic; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Galactofuge; Odontalgic.

The Californian poppy is a bitter sedative herb that acts as a diuretic, relieves pain, relaxes spasms and promotes perspiration. The whole plant is harvested when in flower and dried for use in tinctures and infusions. It is taken internally in the treatment of nervous tension, anxiety, insomnia and incontinence (especially in children). The watery sap is mildly narcotic and has been used to relieve toothache. It is similar in its effect to the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) but is much milder in its action and does not depress the central nervous system. Another report says that it has a markedly different effect upon the central nervous system, that it is not a narcotic but tends to normalize psychological function. Its gently antispasmodic, sedative and analgesic actions make it a valuable herbal medicine for treating physical and psychological problems in children. It may also prove beneficial in attempts to overcome bedwetting, difficulty in sleeping and nervous tension and anxiety. An extract of the root is used as a wash on the breasts to suppress the flow of milk in lactating females.

Used for stress, anxiety, tension, neuralgia, incontinence ( especially in children), tachycardia, hypertension, colic, headache, and toothache.
California Poppy has the reputation of being non-addictive (compared to the Opium Poppy), though it is less powerful. It has been used effectively as a sedative, and also as a hypnotic for those cases when a spasmodic remedy is required.
It is used in treating sleeplessness and over excitability in children, acting as a sedative. It is a non-addictive alternative to the Opium Poppy.

Other Uses: Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Foundation, Massing, Rock garden. Prefers a poor sandy soil and a sunny position but is easily grown in an ordinary garden soil.

The species is very 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 subsp. californica, native to California, Baja California, and Oregon, widely planted as an ornamental, and an invasive elsewhere.

E.californica subsp. 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 subsp. 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 subsp. californica var. crocea (Benth.) Jeps., which grows in non-arid inland regions. They are perennial, taller, and have orange flowers.

E. california subsp. californica var. peninsularis (E. L. Greene) Munz, which is an annual or facultative annual growing in arid inland environments.

E. californica subsp. mexicana (E. L. Greene) C. Clark, the Mexican Goldpoppy, which is found in the Sonoran Desert.

History and uses
Eschscholzia californica was the first named member of the genus Eschscholzia, which was named by the German botanist Adelbert von Chamisso after another botanist, Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz, his friend and colleague on Otto von Kotzebue’s scientific expedition to California and the greater Pacific in the early 19th century.

Spanish explorers called the flower copa de oro, “cup of gold” or sometimes dormidera, which means, “the drowsy one” because the flowers close at dusk. The botanical name is in honor of Dr. J.F. Eschscholtz, a physician and naturalist, who came to explore California with the Russians in 1816 and 1824.
Native Indians used the green foliage as a vegetable and parts of the plant as a mild pain-killer.

The California poppy is the California state flower. It was selected as the state flower by the California State Floral Society in December 1890, winning out over the Mariposa lily (genus Calochortus) and the Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) by a landslide, but the state legislature did not make the selection official until 1903. Its golden blooms were deemed a fitting symbol for the Golden State. April 6 of each year is designated “California Poppy Day.”

Horticulturalists have produced numerous cultivars with various other colors and blossom and stem forms. These typically do not breed true on reseeding.

A common myth associated with the plant is that cutting or otherwise damaging the California poppy is illegal because it is a state flower. There is no such law. There is a state law that makes it a misdemeanor to cut or remove any flower, tree, shrub or other plant growing on state or county highways, with an exception for authorized government employees and contractors (Cal. Penal Code Section 384a).

The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is located in northern Los Angeles County, California. At the peak of the blooming season, orange petals seem to cover all 1,745 acres (7 km²) of the reserve.

As an invasive species:
Because of its beauty and ease of growing, the California poppy was introduced into several regions with similar Mediterranean climates. It is commercially sold and widely naturalized in Australia, and was introduced to South Africa, Chile, and Argentina. In Chile, it was introduced from multiple sources between the mid 1800s and the early 1900s. It appears to have been both intentionally imported as an ornamental garden plant, and accidentally introduced along with alfalfa seed grown in California. Since Chile and California have similar climatic regions and have experienced much agricultural exchange, it is perhaps not surprising that it was introduced to Chile. Once there, its perennial forms spread primarily in human-disturbed environments (Leger and Rice, 2003).

Interestingly, the introduced Chilean populations of California poppy appear to be larger and more fecund in their introduced range than in their native range (Leger and Rice, 2003). Introduced populations have been noted to be larger and more reproductively successful than native ones (Elton, 1958), and there has been much speculation as to why. Increase in resource availability, decreased competition, and release from enemy pressure have all been proposed as explanations.

One hypothesis is that the resources devoted in the native range to a defense strategy, can in the absence of enemies be devoted to increased growth and reproduction (the EICA hypothesis, Blossey & Nötzold, 1995). However, this is not the case with introduced populations of E. californica in Chile: the Chilean populations were actually more resistant to Californian caterpillars than the native populations (Leger and Forister, 2005).

Within the USA, it is also recognized as a potentially invasive species, being classified in Tennessee as a Rank 3 (Lesser Threat) species, i.e. an exotic plant species that spreads in or near disturbed areas, and is not presently considered a threat to native plant communities (Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council). Also, no indications of ill effects have been reported for this plant where it has been introduced outside of California.

It is not known whether efforts are being undertaken anywhere in its introduced range to control or prevent further spread, nor what methods would be best suited to do so


California poppy leaves were used medicinally by Native Americans, and the pollen was used cosmetically. The seeds are used in cooking.

Extract from the California poppy acts as a mild sedative when smoked. The effect is far milder than that of opium, which contains a different class of alkaloids. Smoking California poppy extract is claimed not to be addictive.

A tincture of California poppy can be used to treat nervousness and, with larger dosage, insomnia.

Preparation and Dosages:
Fresh plant tincture, [1:2] 15 to 25 drops, up to 3 times a day.
Dry herb, standard infusion, 2 to 4 ounces.

Known Hazards : No records of toxicity have been seen but this species belongs to a family that contains many poisonous plants. Some caution is therefore advised.

Contraindications: The California Poppy should not be used in pregnancy due to the uterine stimulating effects from the alkaloid, cryptopine.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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