It’s California Poppy Day!

April 6th is California Poppy Day, honoring our state flower. The California Poppy was designated the state flower in 1903, and in 2010 April 6th was named an official state holiday (but not one where anybody gets the day off, sorry to say). Instead, according to Senate Bill 944:

. . . all public schools and educational institutions are encouraged to conduct exercises honoring the California Poppy, including instruction about native plants, particularly the California Poppy, and the economic and aesthetic value of wildflowers; promoting responsible behavior toward our natural resources and a spirit of protection toward them . . .

So I hope you learn something about the California Poppy today. Here are some tidbits of information, with which you can stun your friends and family.

The California poppy (Eschscholzia Californica) is one of 12 species in the genus eschscholzia, which is named for botanist Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz. 

Before they flower, the plants look a bit like carrots. But don’t try to eat the yellow taproot — it is mildly toxic. I am not sure what constitutes “mildly toxic” and I do not plan to experiment and report my findings.

Other species of eschscholzia grow in Western North America and you can find pictures and descriptions at the wonderful website CalFlora.

As you know, I like to visit Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Butte County every year for the wildflower display. The true California poppy is not a native of Table Mountain, but two of its cousins are there:

Foothill poppy

One is Eschscholzia caespitosa or foothill poppy, which is nearly identical, except that it lacks a collar below the petals. These are only found in a few rocky outcrops.

The other is the smaller, paler cousin of the California poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii, or frying pans. (Yes, the flower is called frying pans. I’m not sure why, but you can think of it as a little pan full of melted butter, ready for your morning eggs.)

Frying pans are very common on Table Mountain. You see them everywhere — swathes of little yellow poppies.

Frying-pans at Table Mountain

More information on California’s state symbols can be found at

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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3 Responses to It’s California Poppy Day!

  1. Marian Ware says:

    I didn’t know about this holiday . My mother
    would have been thrilled to know this. She revered the CA poppy. As a third grade teacher , she bought lbs of poppy seeds from the state and took her students out on Saturdays to plant them along the roadways . She called this project “Operation Poppy Seed” She did this every year. She grew fields of them in her large front yard in Alexander Valley. She was the Poppy Lady.

  2. Jim Leek says:

    I ate a California Poppy root once. It had grown where I planted some carrots, and the root looked like a skinny pale carrot, so I ate it. When I figured out what I had eaten, I looked it up. Apparently it’s commonly used for mild pain relief. I felt no effects whatsoever.

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