The Genus Eschscholzia

California Poppies and Their Relatives

Common questions


Where to see California poppies

  • Southern California
    • The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve and surrounding areas west of Lancaster (early April)
    • The hills east of Gorman near the Grapevine (mid-April)
If you know of an area with consistent displays of California poppies, please e-mail me and I will put the information here and credit you.

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Why does the genus have such a strange name?

The genus was named by Adelbert von Chamisso in honor of his friend Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, physician and naturalist on the Russian Kotzebue expedition that visited California. Eschscholtz was of German parentage, but his parents had settled in Russia. His family name had originally been spelled "Escholtz" in Germany, but when the name was transliterated to the Cyrillic alphabet used then and now for Russian, it appeared as [cyrillic text] (e-sh-sh-o-l-ts). Upon conversion back to German the name became "Eschscholtz" with the doubled "sch". Chamisso latinized the name as "Eschscholzius", without the "t". This is not unexpected; "Eschscholtz" and "Eschscholz" would have been (and still are) pronounced the same in German, and at that time spelling was not firmly fixed in most European languages. In his description of the new genus in 1820, Chamisso called it Eschscholzia, which is the correct name according to the provisions of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. However, in the plate accompanying the description, he labeled it Eschholzia, and elsewhere in the publication, Eschscholtzia. This latter misspelling was widely used for over a century and is still occasionally seen today.

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How do I grow California poppies?

California poppies have been grown successfully in many parts of the world, from cool temperate regions to lowland tropics. In their native California and in other regions with mild winters, they should be planted in the fall. In areas with cold winters, they should be planted in the early spring, about the same time you would plant radishes. Some important considerations:
  • California poppies should be planted by direct seeding when possible
  • They transplant best when very young
  • They need good drainage
  • They do not perform well in small containers
  • They grow best in cool, sunny conditions
  • They respond poorly to heat

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