The California Poppy and Ten Meadows to Visit cover

The California Poppy and Ten Meadows to Visit

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The California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.) can be found growing in the diverse conditions of the western part of North America from as far north as Oregon and reaching as far south as Baja California.
A single orange (often - yellow) flower of this plant emits a fragile and exquisite beauty but there are locations where one can see millions of these beautiful flowers growing together.





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The California Poppy and Ten Meadows to Visit

The California Poppy

The California Poppy belongs to the Poppy family and for the most part looks like a typical poppy with its solitary, bright colored cup of large, fragile petals and alternately divided, segmented leaves. What sets it apart is it's color.

It’s hard to describe the gorgeous color of this flower to those who have not seen it personally - it is a brilliant bright or light orange color. The hue is of rare beauty and has given deserved fame to this flower.

Little Sun

Little Sun

California Poppy, close up/Doc Searls

(CC BY 2.0)

The California Poppy (cont.)

The California Poppy flowers in the spring, late February through April, and often re-blooms in the early autumn around September.

It loves grassy, open areas such as the arid grasslands of California inland valleys, seaside meadows or at the foot of steep hillsides. In good conditions it acts as a perennial, in colder conditions - annual. Poppies love sun and sandy, well-drained soil. They often re-populate clearances after forest fires. They are drought-resistant and in the springtime cover areas which in summer seem to be nearly lifeless.

The California Poppy (cont.)

Their love for sun is expressed in an interesting way. Before sundown the flowers close and they will also remain closed during the day if the weather is cloudy. This is an important factor when considering a visit to a poppy meadow.

There are many varieties of the California Poppy causing some confusion regarding the number of subspecies or even divisions in several distinct species. One easily noticeable variation is color, which can alternate between bright yellow and deep orange.

Evening Is Coming

Evening Is Coming

Evening is coming and poppies close. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Wanderbored

(CC BY-SA 2.0)

History of Discovery

Although settlers in California had arrived centuries earlier, scientists only discovered the bright orange poppy in the early 1800’s.

Around this time the Russian empire had organized several rather successful voyages around the world to extend their political and economical contacts. Groups of scientists were traditionally taken aboard during such trips.

The brig "Rurik" made its trip in 1815 – 1818 carrying on board the German-born botanist Adelbert von Chamisso and the Baltic German (from present day Estonia) enthomologist Friedrich von Eschscholtz who became close friends during the expedition. When Chamisso described the beautiful orange Californian flower, he named the plant after his friend - Eschscholzia californica Cham. The letter "t" is lost from the family of Eschscholtz in the Latin name of the plant.

Orange Meadows

Great naturalist John Muir wrote in his memoirs: "Go where I would, east or west, north or south, I still plashed and rippled in flower-gems".

In 1868 he was privileged to see a rare sight - an endless sea (400 miles long and 30 miles wide) of spring flowers in California’s Central Valley. Nearly all of this unique grandeur is gone now, meadows have been replaced by farmland, roads and buildings. Existing meadows consist of numerous flowers but some of the most prominent are poppies.

Poppies In Merced River Valley

Poppies In Merced River Valley

Steve Ryan

(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Orange Meadows (cont.)

The California poppy meadows are some of the most impressive wildflower displays in the world. The color is unusually clear and brilliant, seemingly unreal as in something from a fantasy.

This flower has created a passion that is seldom seen elsewhere in the world. Many Californians love to go "wildflower hunting", searching for beautiful meadows to photograph and to just enjoy the beauty. Many people are attracted by the variety of native wildflowers available to study and enjoy. This is a relaxing way to take a break from the stressed rhythm of city life.

Orange Meadows (cont.)

Law prohibits the picking or uprooting of a California poppy in the wild but if there are no designated hiking trails near a large meadow, trails soon develop through them due to the amount of sight-seers the flowers attract.

If one car stops at the roadside and people walk out in the meadow, chances are there will soon be 10 more cars joining them. Due to this Wondermondo advises to enjoy poppies in places which are suited for this: Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, trails around Figueroa Mountain, Hite Cove trail, and Point Buchon Trail. Although there might be more people, there are also more chances to see untouched poppy meadows.

There is one more potential danger regarding walking in California poppy meadows - rattlesnakes. There may be little chance to meet them in late February - March, but you never know.

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Rennet t Stowe

(CC BY 2.0)

List of Ten Meadows

Listed below are 10 gorgeous meadows of Californian poppies in alphabetic order.

1. Antelope Valley Poppy ReservePossibly the most impressive California poppy meadow. Located in the western part of the Antelope Valley. Nature reserve since 1960’s. Area covers 1,777 acres (7.19 km2). Tourist facilities are available with designated nature trails.

Poppies in Bear Valley, Colusa

Poppies in Bear Valley, Colusa

Image by Agunther

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

2. Bear Valley Wildflower Meadows

Largest remaining area of Californian arid grasslands next to the Antelope Valley and Carrizo Plain.

Desolate, vast valley, rich not only with California poppy but also creamcups (Platystemon californicus Benth.), adobe lilies (Fritillaria pluriflora Torr. ex Benth.) and many other wildflowers.

Goldfields, Carrizo Plain Wildflower Meadows

Goldfields, Carrizo Plain Wildflower Meadows

Simon Sub

(CC BY 2.0)

3. Carrizo Plain Wildflower Meadows

One of the most unique natural complexes in California, vast remnant of arid grasslands.

Large meadows of diverse wildflowers such as California goldfield (Lasthenia californica DC. ex Lindl.), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth.), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.), tidy tips (Layia platyglossa ( Fisch. & C.A.Mey.) A.Gray) and numerous other species.

Meadows of Dry Creek Preserve

Meadows of Dry Creek Preserve

Simon Sun

(CC BY 2.0)

4. Wildflower Meadows of Dry Creek, Tulare County

A combination of Sycamore alluvial woodland together with open grassland, further away from the creek, provides one of the most impressive floral displays in this part of California.

The landscape is made even more impressive by the fact that it is partly restored after the closure of a gravel mine.

Poppy Field Near Mount Figueroa

Poppy Field Near Mount Figueroa

Doc Searls

(CC BY-SA 2.0)

5. Poppy and Lupine Fields of Figueroa Mountain

Hillsides of the Figueroa Mountain represent a beautiful, refreshing sight in spring with lush meadows full with flowers.

Add a stately backdrop of forested mountains and you get a perfect landscape. Hillsides are covered here with sky lupines and California poppies. For diversity in many locations one can see patches of magenta padre's shooting stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii Greene), chocolate lilies (Fritillaria biflora Lindl.). In more open areas there are rich displays of goldfields (Lasthenia ssp.) and numerous other flowers.

Spring Colors of Gorman Hills

Spring Colors of Gorman Hills

Father of Nehrams2020

(CC BY 3.0)

6. Flower Fields of Gorman Hills

Not too far from the famous Antelope Valley poppy meadows, this is another well-known location where one can see a magnificent display of California native flowers in the springtime.

Some of the most common flower species here are the yellow California tickseeds (Coreopsis californica (Nuttall) H. Sharsmith), blue Bentham lupines (Lupinus benthamii A.Heller), blue bluehead gilias (Gilia capitata Sims) and lacy phacelias (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth.).

Poppy Meadow in Merced River Valley

Poppy Meadow in Merced River Valley

Steve Ryan

(CC BY-SA 2.0)

7. Poppy Meadows of Merced Valley and Hite Cove

Not too far from the famous Antelope Valley poppy meadows, this is another well-known location where one can see a magnificent display of California native flowers in the springtime.

One of the most popular routes leading into the Yosemite National Park is Highway 140 along the Merced River. When approaching Yosemite the valley gradually becomes deeper and deeper. During springtime the beautiful landscape is enhance by the sight of the high river banks covered by millions of bright orange poppies.

Meadows Near Lake Elsinore

Meadows Near Lake Elsinore

Jim Sneddon

(CC BY-SA 2.0)

8. Walker Canyon Poppy Fields

The Lake Elsinore area is located near the Greater Los Angeles Area which has an approximate population of 16 million people. Some areas near Los Angeles have been spared of urban development and are even relatively intact.

An example of this can be found along the I-15 freeway between Alberhill and Lake Elsinore. For the better part of the year the surrounding hill sides are desolate and lifeless. However in the springtime, between late February and April, the is an amazing transformation as the hills become covered with large bright colored patches of wildflowers.

Point Buchon Poppy Meadows

Point Buchon Poppy Meadows

Docent Joyce

(CC BY 2.0)

9. Point Buchon Poppy Meadows

One of the most beautiful seaside Californian poppy meadows is located at Point Buchon.

Often in spring this approximately 6 km long, and up to 0.8 km wide, stretch of coastal plain is covered with millions of bright orange California poppies. For many years these beautiful meadows were closed to the public but since 2007 - 2008 up to 275 people per day are allowed to enjoy them.

Meadows Around the Shell Creek Road

Meadows Around the Shell Creek Road

Kevin Cole

(CC BY 2.0)

10. Shell Creek Road Meadows

The diverse and beautiful Shell Creek meadows can serve as a teaching ground and for observing Californian wildflowers. The undulating hills combined with occasional groups of trees and patches of forest makes for a lively landscape along Shell Creek.

Traveling north the valley becomes more arid with less trees but is still rich with wildflowers. From late February through April Shell Creek Road becomes an important destination for wildflower enthusiasts and especially for photographers. Diverse scenery and diversity of plants provide plenty of excellent views.