California Poppy

Eschscholzia californica Cham

Herbs gallery - California Poppy

Common names

  • California Poppy

The herbaceous plant called the California poppy is native to the western regions of North America. It is a small annual or perennial plant that can reach two ft or sixty cm in height when fully grown. The leaves of the California poppy are finely cut and the plant bears pretty red, bright orange, and yellow or pink color flowers - and many people around the world cultivate the plant for its flowers.

The California poppy plant bears a single flower that appears on an extended stem during the period between February and September. The flowers have a silky texture, four petals - each of which is about 2 cm to 6 cm (about 0.79 inch to 2.4 inches) in length and broad. Their color varies and may be anything between yellow and orange. The petals of California poppy close during the night or when the atmospheric conditions are cold and windy. While they open on the next morning, you may also find them closed when the weather is cloudy.

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The fruit of California poppy is a narrow, dehiscent (bursting open naturally) capsule that is anything between 3 cm and 9 cm (about 1.2 inches and 3.5 inches) in length. The fruit naturally splits open into two releasing several small seeds which may be black or deep brown in color. The plant has the aptitude to stay alive in mild winter (as per its native range). The plant completely withers away when the climatic conditions become very cold. California poppy thrives well even in sandy, poor soils, provided the drainage is proper and in total sunlight.

The early Spanish explorers of North western America first came upon the flowers, which at that time covered entire mountain stretches of coastal California like a veritable golden blanket. The landscape covered by orange and yellow poppy blossoms so impressed the Spanish that they called coastal California - the Land of Fire, referring to the bloom. It has been anecdotally said that in the old days, before development, time robbed the mountains of the flowers, the blanketed landscape was used by sailors at sea as beacons to chart their course landwards. These days the California poppy is the state flower of California.

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As California poppy (botanical name Eschscholzia californica) is the official flower of California in the United States, its photos are displayed on the welcome boards that line the highways while you are entering California. Although the California State Floral Society selected California poppy as the official flower beating Matilija poppy (botanical name Romneya coulteri) and Mariposa lily (belonging to the genus Calochortus) by a wide margin in December 1890, the results were not declared by the state legislature till 1903. In effect, the golden hued flowers of California poppy are considered to be an appropriate symbol for California, which is also known as the Golden State. Precisely speaking, every year April 6 is celebrated as the California Poppy Day.

It is worth mentioning here that a widespread false impression is related to California poppy. The misconception is that as this flower has been designated the state flower of California, damaging or cutting the flower is illegal in this state of the United State. However, the fact is that no such law exists in California. However, the plant can be removed or cut in the public land or along the country highways only by people who are authorized by the government to do so. In addition, cutting or removing the plants growing on private land without seeking the consent of the owner is also illegal.

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California poppy, being similar to all the other plants in the poppy family, possesses a sap that contains sedative alkaloid compounds. The sedative action possessed by the plant was traditionally used by the local Indians as an herbal painkiller, especially for toothaches and other physical problems. The Native Americans also used the California poppy in treating disorders such as insomnia and persistent headache; they also used an herbal poultice made from the poppy for the treatment of sores and ulcers on the skin. A love charm was traditionally made from the California poppy by the native Indian women to lure unresponsive lovers, the charm must have worked as it was once considered a crime under tribal law and such women would face expulsion from the tribe if they were unlucky enough to be detected. Even these days, a hair tonic is made from the California poppy by some local Californians of Spanish heritage, who cook the poppy in some olive oil and use the solution as a tonic for hair, this tonic is supposed to make hair grow thicker and shinier. The Spanish gave the name Dormidera, or "the drowsy one," to the flower of the poppy, true to its Californian roots the California poppy is a sun worshipper, and grows well in full sunlight, always closing itself up very tightly as night falls.

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Parts used

Dried aerial parts.


The nervous system is affected in a very different way by the California poppy, even though this plant is a close relative of the opium poppy, a plant well known for many narcotic products. The main difference is that the California poppy does not induce a narcotic effect on the body. The opposite effect seems to be true of the California poppy; the plant seems to be able to normalize psychological function in a person instead of disorienting mental states. The California poppy's is ideal for the treatment of physical and psychological problems in children due to the gentle anti-spasmodic, the potent sedative and analgesic effects it possesses - this plant is highly valued for these reasons. Disorders and conditions such as persistent bedwetting, problems with sleeping, persistent nervous tension and anxiety can be effectively treated using the herbal remedies made from the California poppy.

Native Americans traditionally used the leaves of California poppy therapeutically, while they used the pollens of the plant to make cosmetics. The seeds of the plant are utilized in cooking. An aqueous extract from California poppy has anxiolytic (a medication used to alleviate anxiety) and sedative consequences. When the extract from this plant is smoked, it results in mild sedation - a much lesser effect compared to that of smoking opium.

Habitat and cultivation

The western parts of the Northern America is where the California poppy grows in the wild, it has been transplanted away from its native region to areas of similar climate and geography. The California poppy grows best in sandy type of soils, and it is widely cultivated as a garden plant in many parts of the world.

Frequently, people use California poppy in mixes prepared with wildflower. Growing California poppy is easy, as it is not only able to tolerate drought, but also reseeds so rapidly that the plant may prove to be weedy. When growing in normal conditions, California poppy bears maximum flowers during the period between March and May. However, the blooming period can be prolonged provided you water the plant regularly.


California poppy contains alkaloids (including protopine, cryptopine, and chelidonine) and flavone glycosides.

Usual dosage

The preparation of the herbal infusion from the plant involves infusing one to two teaspoonful of the dried herb for about ten minutes in a cup of boiling water. Ideally a cup of this infusion must be drunk at night to promote restful sleep for the patient. Dosage of the herbal poppy tincture can be about one to four ml of the herbal tincture taken before sleeping; this regimen can be followed throughout the duration of the treatment period.

Collection and harvesting

The months between June and September are used for the collection of the aerial parts of the plant - the California poppy is in full bloom within this time period. Collected plant parts are dried in the shade and stored for use in various herbal applications.


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