I captured some specimens of California poppy, the beautiful state flower, in Long Beach on our recent trip to California…. or are they all poppies?
Ok, so you don’t really need a super-sharp eye to see that an orange flag has, for some reason, been inserted among the orange blossoms of the poppy. It pretty much sticks out like a sore thumb. I was amused by the resemblance of this impostor to its involuntary poppy hosts, nevertheless.
It’s a perhaps little-known fact, that both of us in the Urban Plant Research duo are native Californians, though we are now based in big, faraway cities. So of course we have a soft spot for California poppies, despite their growing infamy as an invasive species outside the Golden State. They are just too darned cute not to love and, for me at least, bring back childhood memories playing with the blossoms and seedpods.
Did you know that California poppies are sometimes called Schlafmützchen in German, meaning ‘little night caps’? You’ll understand why as soon as you see these photos from the German Wikipedia entry on California poppies, which is much more extensive than the English Wikipedia entry (perhaps because the poppy was first documented by a German scientist, Adelbert von Chamisso during a research expedition to California in the 1810’s).
Take a look:
The sepals of the poppy enclose the orange buds entirely, just like a little night cap. As the flower begins to bloom…
…it looks even more like a sleepy little character wearing a long green hat!
In addition to the visual reference, I suspect any nickname for a poppy that evokes drowsiness or sleepiness would stick easily in Germany, where all poppies are strongly associated, in the popular imagination, with opiate effects. Even though poppyseeds are used enthusiastically and generously in German baking – the thick layer of poppyseed in the cake below is actually modest for German standards…
…these treats are often served with the warning, “Mohn macht dumm” – poppy makes you dumb!
And indeed, according to Wikipedia, “Extract from the California poppy acts as a mild sedative when smoked.” However, the active substance differs from that of the opium poppy, and the effect is much milder.
Personally, I prefer to enjoy California poppies visually, and delight in their funny and cheerful forms.
Top photo, Leslie Kuo, all rights reserved. All other photos via Wikimedia Commons: second photo, H. Zell, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0; third photo, Rob Hille, public domain; final photo, Alice Wiegand (Lyzzy), GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0.