California Department of Fish and Wildlife
bright orange poppy-like flower

Eschscholzia californica, CDFW Photo by Jeb Bjerke

California Poppy

On March 2, 1903 the California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, became the official state flower of California (Ca. Government Code Section 421). The plant's bright orange flowers, called "copa de oro" (cup of gold) by early Spanish settlers, are an unmatched symbol of the Golden State, viewed perhaps as a floral representation of the “fields of gold” sought during the gold rush. The California poppy is commonly seen blooming in the spring and summer along country roads and freeways throughout much of the state, making this plant a highly recognizable symbol of California, and April 6 of each year is officially designated as California Poppy Day.

It is often believed that there are laws prohibiting the cutting or damaging of the California poppy because it is the state flower. While there is no law protecting the California poppy specifically, California Penal Code Section 384a requires written landowner permission to remove and sell plant material from land that a person does not own, and removing or damaging plants from property that a person does not own without permission may constitute trespass and/or petty theft. However, these laws do not prevent the collection of California poppies on private land by the landowner. California poppies are a beautiful and easy-to-grow addition to your garden, and although you may choose to pick them from your property, they last much longer in the ground!

For more information on any of the topics above, please contact nativeplants@wildlife.ca.gov.

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