Sophia Warsh, Horticulturist | California

As spring progresses, poppies (Eschscholzia and Papaver) are everywhere in California! But there are some other members of the poppy family (Papaveraceae) to explore – Dendromecon and Romneya, California’s shrubby poppies. 

Dendromecon, which is greek for tree poppy, is a shrub to small tree native to California.

The species we have (Bed 6B) is Dendromecon harfordii which is endemic to the Channel Islands. Our specimen was originally collected on Santa Cruz Island where it is associated with other denizens of the chaparral like chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), scrub oak (Quercus dumosa), and island ceanothus (Ceanthous arboreus). Its glossy petals rival that of a buttercup and in fact they are in the same order – the Ranunculales. This early diverging clade of eudicots includes buttercups, barberries, columbine, creamcups, bleeding hearts and inside-out flowers to name just a few. 

The other shrubby poppy on display at the Garden is Romneya. There are two species featured, R. coulteri (Bed 12A) and R. trichocalyx (Bed 70B), Matilija poppy and bristly Matilija poppy respectively. Floating aloft these towering subshrubs is the largest flower of any plant native to California. Its papery white petals and numerous yellow stamens lend it one of its other names – the fried egg flower. Matilija poppy is native to the dry canyons, chaparral and coastal sage scrub of Southern California and Baja.  

And, while you are at the garden, look around for these other shrubby members of the poppy family – Bocconia frutescens (South America, 654) and B. glaucifolia (Mexico, 360, 361)

Dendromecon harfordii

Dendromecon harfordii

Romneya coulteri close up

Romneya coulteri

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