Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Coastal California Poppies

Eschscholzia californica maritima & Escholzia californica

Eschscholzia californica maritima & Escholzia californica

I like this accidental side by side comparison of the coastal form of the California poppy, Eschscholzia californica maritima or Eschscholzia californica var. californica, and the regular California poppy, Eschscholzia californica. I put in the regular one two years ago and the coastal form last year. Both plants are perennial in our garden, so now we have both. I suppose growing together they could hybridize, but we deadhead pretty regularly and there are many blocks of houses and concrete between us and any “wild” land.

The regular poppy might be the better plant for most gardens–bigger and faster with larger blooms and that unique burnt-orange color–and it’s definitely more common in gardens, but the coastal one has its merits, too, and seems to be getting more popular. I say “regular” and “coastal,” but I’m pretty sure the coastal form is actually the native one for Richmond Annex where I live. In fact, the owner of Larner Seeds, where I got my seed, has a post on her blog that suggests that the prevalence of the more annual form around the Bay Area hills and throughout the state is the work of past generations of Boy Scouts, Sierra Clubbers, and other human seed dispersers, and that there used to be a lot more regional variance across the state. And apparently people are still doing it, James at Lost in the Landscape cites a recent re-gen project in the San Diego area that used the generic poppy instead of the locally native form.

The flowers of the coastal form have an interesting two-tone color, an orange interior fading to a bright lemony yellow on the outer parts of the petals, and they seem to vary a bit in size and coloring; the biggest coastal flowers are often as big as the smaller flowers on the annual form. In the wild I’ve mostly seen the coastal form looking like a woolly little blue-gray thing growing in dry mineral soil, but in the garden they get about a foot tall, and they’ve been quite willing to cover themselves in blooms during the spring and then keep producing sporadic blooms throughout the summer. Their small size works best for our small garden, so we’re thinking of pulling the regular ones this year, and going down to just the single form, the coastal one.

Escholzia californica maritima, coastal Cal poppy

Eschscholzia californica maritima, coastal Cal poppy

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9 Responses to “Coastal California Poppies”

  1. April 5th, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Town Mouse says:

    I had no idea! How interesting. I actually always think I have two different kinds because my poppies start out huge, and then I get a second crop of much smaller flowers when it’s hot. But I’m pretty sure it’s the same plant.

  2. April 7th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    lostlandscape(James) says:

    It’s interesting that your two poppies are similarly sized. My coastal ones are lots more petite, though I’m sure there are different populations with larger blooms. I’ve been trying to find again where I read that there were so many poppy variations that taxonomists in that past had decided that there were a hundred different species, though now I think only six species or so are recognized. It’s an interesting topic!

  3. April 7th, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    [ Lost in the Landscape ] » trying to do the right thing says:

    […] April 7: Check out another post on two different poppy forms over at DryStoneGarden. bookmark, […]

  4. April 8th, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    ryan says:

    Yeah, poppies are interesting and variable and a little confusing. It always shocks me how big the first ones are, then the smaller, later ones on the same plant make me forget so they can shock me again the next year. So far the average coastal one is a noticeable step down in size from the size of the average orange one, but the coastal ones have have varied a lot in sizes, even at the same time on the same plant and including some blooms almost as big as the biggest orange ones. I figure they’re so big it’s because they’re in their second year and they get some of the water directed at the blueberries and strawberries uphill of them, but it could be the seed strain. I don’t really know.

  5. April 15th, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    chuck b. says:

    I’m also finding the coastal form seed from Larner making a smaller flower in my garden than the generic orange. In natural areas tho, esp. Pt. Reyes, the coastal form looks more like the generic.

    What I’m really loving is the creamy ‘Moonlight’ she also sells. I generally avoid cultivars, but the Moonlight rocks.

  6. April 18th, 2009 at 9:27 am

    mss @ Zanthan Gardens says:

    I love California poppies and have been growing the “regular” kind in my Texas garden for several years. Mine don’t usually perennialize because Austin has heavy clay and sometimes humid as well as hot summers. However, I find them very easy to start from seed and this year I even had a bunch self-sow.

    The variety I grow is ‘Mikado’ from Botanical Interests. The first couple of years they were a solid pale orange. This year (maybe it’s the self-sowers), I’m getting a lot of reddish or burnt orange flowers, darker on the outside of the petals and sometimes broken colors (like shot silk) inside. I don’t know if this means they’ve reverted or what but I really like them.

    I’m going to try to grow twice as many next year.

  7. August 4th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Nate says:

    Have any of you with the coastal form noticed the same resistance to powdery mildew as Lost in the Landscape did? My regular poppies look gross by the time August rolls around.

  8. August 5th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    ryan says:

    I get powdery milder on the coastal and non-coastal varieties. I cut the foliage back completely, otherwise they look terrible.

  9. May 1st, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Chimney Rocking with Michael – 28 April 2014 | Zulu Thoughts says:

    […] “No poet has yet sung the full beauty of our poppy, no painter has successfully portrayed the satiny sheen of its lustrous petals, no scientist has satisfactorily diagnosed the vagaries of its variations and adaptability. In its abundance, this colorful plant should not be slighted: cherish it and be ever thankful that so rare a plant is common.” John Thomas Howell (1937) Quoted in the beginning of: “California’s Fading Wildflowers” by Richard A. Minnich, University of California Press, 2008. The California Coastal Poppy is distinctive for it yellow petals and orange center, Eschscholzia california maritima. http://drystonegarden.com/index.php/2009/04/coastal-california-poppies/ […]

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