California is a state located in the Pacific region of the United States. The state covers an area of 163,696 sq mi, which ranks as the third largest in the country, and had a population of 39,536,653 in 2017, making it the most populous state in the US. California has a series of officially designated state symbols, including a state animal (California grizzly bear), bird (California quail), and fruit (avocado). It also has a state flower, the California poppy, which was officially recognized in 1903. Also known as the golden poppy, California sunlight, or cup of gold, the flower belongs to the Papveraceae family and is native to Mexico and the United States, but is more common in California than in any other US state. The California poppy is an ornamental flower that typically blossoms during summer in fields throughout the state. The flower’s image is featured on welcome signs along California's highways and on official scenic route signs within the state. As the official state flower, picking or destroying the California poppy grown in state property is prohibited and punishable by fine or imprisonment.
Description of the California Poppy
The California poppy is an ornamental plant with cup-shaped flowers in shades of orange, yellow, and red, or occasionally even pink. The flower usually has four petals that are silky in texture and usually between 2 and 6 cm in length. The petals close during the night or in cold windy weather and then reopen in the morning. However, the petals may remain closed on cloudy mornings. The plant's leaves are alternately partitioned into round, lobed segments. The California poppy grows to between 13 and 152 cm in height and bears a fruit. The fruit is a dehiscent capsule, which is slender, usually 3 to 9 cm long, and harbors numerous small dark brown or black seeds that are released when the fruit splits.
Selecting California's State Flower
The California poppy was first suggested for adoption as the state flower of California in the 1890s by American botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon, who later presented the bill to the California Legislature. It was unofficially selected by the California State Flower Society in 1890, among other flowers such as the Mariposa lily and Matilija poppy. However, the legislation was not passed until years later and was eventually signed by California Governor George Pardee in 1903. The golden bloom of the California poppy was considered an appropriate symbol of the Golden State. The discovery of gold in California and the role it played in the state’s economy earned California the nickname "The Golden State."
Uses of the California Poppy
The California poppy is commonly used to garnish food and its seeds can be cooked and eaten. In addition to its use in foods, the plant is popular for its medicinal values, as parts of the plant have been used to treat insomnia, bedwetting in children, liver and bladder diseases, nervous agitation, and pains in various parts of the body. The California poppy is known to enhance relaxation, and its extracts can also be combined with other herbs to treat conditions such as depression, fatigue, blood vessel problems, sedation, and sensitivity to weather changes. Extracts from the plant can be taken in dry or in liquid forms. The plant has also been used to make tea.