|Romneya coulteri: photo by Cliff Hutson|
Matilija Poppy, Romneya coulteri, is a perennial herb that is not only native to California but is endemic (limited) to California alone. It also has the distinction of being having the largest flower of any plant native to the state. The flowers, up to seven inches in diameter, are said to resemble a fried egg as they are yellow in the center and surrounded by five or six white, crinkled petals. Its tall stems, with grayish-green leaves, may reach between three and eight feet in height.
This rampantly showy species, of the Papaveraceae family, is found in the chaparral and costal sage scrub habits. It should be blooming from May through June in the Peninsular Ranges and the eastern parts of the South Coast Ranges; at elevations of 20 - 1200 meters. Some blossoms may last well in to late Summer. Threatened by both development (urbanization, flood control, road widening, and road maintenance) and invasive species it is included in the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants on list 4.2 (limited distribution).
Matilija Poppy is very popular in native plant gardens. Care must be taken in its placement as it is rhizomatous and very aggressive in spreading itself through underground rootstocks which form additional colonies. It needs sun and tolerates various amounts of watering depending on how well the soil drains.
The scientific name commemorates Romney Robinson, an Irish astronomer of the 1800’s, and Thomas Coulter, an Irish physician, botanist, and explorer. The plant itself was almost honored. It was a nominee in 1890 for the title of state flower but lost to the California poppy ( Eschscholzia californica ) by an apparently considerable margin. However, I would like to demand a recount.
|Matilija Poppy: photo by Cliff Hutson|