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CALIFORNIA POPPY Eschscholzia californica

Psalm 65:11 is especially fitting for the wildflower we examine today. In addressing the Almighty God, the psalmist said, “Thou hast crowned the year with Thy bounty, and Thy paths drip with fatness.”

Our roadsides are richly crowned with an abundance of beautiful wildflowers; however, the most eye-catching displays occurred in the medians of our divided highways. In recent years beautification projects were implemented by state, county and town leaders to add beauty to our landscape. The wildflower we feature here is among the most common for these projects as you noted in your travel each summer.

CALIFORNIA POPPY

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Eschscholzia californica

California Poppy is the state flower of California but there seems to be several different poppies that have been popularly called California poppy. One website displays a picture of a yellow Poppy with an orange center. Another has text which describes a dark red center. The more common species is a golden flower, whose petals overlap, creating a deep orange shade as in the sketch.

The California poppy that graces Georgia highways has four triangular petals with a point at the base. The funnel-shaped blossom that measures about 2 inches across occurs at the top of a 12- to 18-inch stem. There are 12 or more stamens. After the petals fall a long erect seed pod forms. The seed case will become porous as it dries, allowing the seed to be scattered by the wind. The seeds are very small. The USDA website noted that between 250,000 and 300,000 seeds are needed to weigh one pound.

Some varieties of the California Poppy have a single bloom atop a single bare stem. Some have branched stems, each with a bloom, bud, or seed capsule, and have small leaves all along the stem and branches. The leaves are distinctive, too. They are finely divided as illustrated. The petiole (the leaf stem) is flat and close examination reveals a series of veins that extend to the end of each leaf-divide.

The California poppy does not like hard packed thick soil. It thrives in loose and sandy soils away from shrubs and trees. It can tolerate extreme drought and thus prefers to be left alone. I’m sure that suits our DOT and beautification clubs.

Finally, the California poppy, whose blooming season extends from April to early fall, closes each night, then opens in the morning once the sun rises high enough to strike the curled petals. This wildflower has a fickle side to its nature: if the sky becomes cloudy, the blooms may curl up as though it is night.

May the beauty of this spring bring many vistas of beauty, for The Almighty has crowned the year with bounty and our “paths drip with fatness.”

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit The Sketching Pad in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.

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