Pretty Poppy Posies Posing… A Walk on the Wild Side: Part 2

Peggy and I are continuing to hike around our five acres and the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest that abuts the back of our property. It serves as a form of entertainment and exercise during our ‘sheltering at home.’ On Monday I featured white oaks with personalities. Today I had picked out ten flowers to feature but the California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) growing down our hill in ever-increasing abundance demanded their own post. These guys produce a gazillion seeds (something like 100,000 per ounce) and are a bit aggressive. Since they are invading territory previously occupied by star thistle— in serious competition for being the world’s most obnoxious plant— we encourage them to invade away. Go, poppies, go!

It was about 9 a.m. and our poppies were just waking up when I took this photo. A spider had used it as a convenient post for attaching its web.

Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies…

Remember this rhyme from your childhood? London Bridge is falling down. I don’t remember anyone telling us the grim story behind it in the second grade, but it isn’t totally irrelevant today. The ditty was created during the time of the plague and the rosy was a red spot on a person’s body that indicated that he or she had caught the dread disease. A pocket full of posies were a pocket full of flowers and herbs that the individual hoped would keep the disease away.

The posie evolved into a small bouquet of flowers that could be warn in a person’s hair, fit into a lapel, or placed on a dining table. I’ve further adapted it to mean all flowers. Thus, pretty poppy posies. It’s good for alliteration. As for the plague, if our California poppies want to keep covid-19 away, we won’t complain. They are, after-all, said to have several positive medicinal benefits including managing pain, anxiety, and insomnia, which sounds pretty good, given our present pandemic.

If this also sounds like heavy-duty drugs, you might recall that the California poppy’s distant cousin, Papaver somniferum (which translate as the poppy that brings sleep) is the opium poppy. Derivatives of opium include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and heroin. Used properly they bring relief from pain. Used improperly, they are all sorts of bad news. Just think of the hassles that Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto had when they crossed over the opium-poppy field to get to the Emerald Palace. Snore. Fortunately Scarecrow and the Tin Man didn’t suffer the affliction.

You’ve probably sampled the opium poppy. And I don’t mean that you are shooting up heroin. Its seeds are included in muffins, on bagels, in salads, etc. While the trace amounts of opium aren’t enough to get you high or lead to addiction — although I confess to an unnatural fondness for poppyseed muffins— they are enough to disqualify you for the Olympics or possibly get you fired since they show up in drug tests. “But Coach, I was just eating a poppy seed muffin.” Right.

California poppies don’t have the same package of alkaloids that opium poppies do, but what they do have is enough to discourage deer from eating them, which is the number one criteria for range-free flowers at our place. And that certainly seems to eliminate a lot of pain, anxiety and insomnia for us. So maybe the claims made by the herbalists are true.

But enough on that; it’s time for the pretty poppies posing part of this post!

When we moved into our house 10 years ago, what was growing here were wall to wall star thistle plants. I pulled them out, chopped them down and poisoned them, but they insisted on coming back. So we planted poppies. Nothing happened for several years and then three years ago poppies started popping up. They have been spreading like crazy ever since.
This will give you an idea of how steep the hillside is. Weed whacking and pulling is a real hassle. Watching poppies spread is ever so much easier! This is three weeks ago before the poppies had started blooming in profusion. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Here is a view of what the leaves and early buds look like.
A close up of a poppy bud.
The poppy reaches a point where it begins to shed its bud cover.
Almost there…
Free at last. Free at last. Are these guys twins?
And the flower begins to open. The sheer beauty of these flowers explains why California chose the poppy as its State Flower in 1903.
And further along. As far as I can tell, the opening of the flower here is the same as the flower opening every morning. Poppies close in the evening and reopen in the morning. They also prefer to remain closed on cloudy days and when a cold wind is blowing.
Early morning has always been one of my favorite times of the day to photograph poppies.
By ten or eleven the flowers are close to being fully open.
Which this one is here. (The white flowers that you see are Cryptantha flaccida, or limp stem cryptantha, not a very flattering name.)
And here.
Once the poppy petals reach this point they are about to drop, which leads to the next phase of the plant’s life.
The poppies in the middle have been pollinated, dropped their petals, and are ready to develop seeds.
Here is a close up of the seed pod. It grows longer, a lot longer.
Almost ready to spread its seeds. One of the flowers donated this pod so it could live forever on the internet. (Grin) It is packed full of up to 100 seeds. When mature, the pod explodes, shooting seeds up to six feet away.
Which is why the poppies are marching down our hill! Outliers can be seen at the bottom. They will soon be joined. Come back at this time in 2021 for the next installment.

FRIDAY’S POST: The rest of the interesting and gorgeous flowers that Peggy and I have found hanging out on our property and in the national forest.