"The Matilija Poppy must be conceded the queen of all flowers,"
wrote Mary Elizabeth Parsons in her charming 1897 book, The Wild Flowers
of California. What caught her eye were the huge-four to eight inches
across-chalk white, uniquely fragrant blossoms. This stunning flower
has six petals that seem to be made of soft crepe paper that has been
crumpled and then pleated. The center, a golden cluster of dozens
of pollen bearing stamen, elicits the descriptive popular name 'fried-egg"
Matilija (pronounced ma-til-li-ha) is the lovely name given
by native Americans, who appreciated its beauty and value as a medicinal
plant. In The late nineteenth century, the renowned botanist Alice
Eastwood named it trichocalyx-trico meaning "hair" and calyx meaning
"sepals" for the three leafy parts covering the bud.
The species painted by Edward Stuhl is found along the Ventura
Coast of California and the surrounding canyons, including the aptly
named Matalija Canyon of the Ventura River. Along the California Coast
and throughout the Coast Range from Santa Barbara to upper Baja, the
very similar Romneya coulteri is commonly found. This species has
smaller flowers and is a larger plant. Most distinctively, however,
its buds are smooth and waxy.
Both species of the Matilija Poppy have been hybridized and
these varieties are available form commercial nurseries. One of the
best is called "White Cloud" which closely resembles Edward Stuhl's
painting. Quite popular in England, it grows equally well in our local
environs. This succulent and fast-growing shrub is unsuited for small
gardens for it can reach a height of eight feet ad once established
becomes very invasive. The Matilija Poppy requires a well-drained
soil (do not over-water!) and does best on sunny hillsides or open
spaces. To encourage flower-bearing branches measuring four to six
feet, cut the plant back to the ground each winter.
Redwood Penstemon &
(*currently for sale)
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Last updated: 05/07/02