Eschscholzia spp.

California Poppy.

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Eschscholzia spp.

Botanical information

Eschscholzia californica is an annual plant, it grows to a height of 20cm with a spread of 20cm. The stem is erect and flowering; the leaves are bluish green, soft and delicate; the flowers are orange (other colours have been bred) and 4 petalled.

A native of North America, it is adaptable to most soils, but prefers an open and sunny position. It is drought and frost resistant.

Propagation of Eschscholzia californica is by seed sown directly into the ground where they are to grow. Sprinkle the tiny seeds onto the surface and rake them in lightly. Best time to sow in cooler climates is spring or autumn, in subtropical climates only in autumn. High humidity is advantageous for initial germination, but will encourage fungal problems soon after. Occasional watering in dry periods increases seedling survival. Seedlings do not tolerate transplanting well. Germination should be expected within a few weeks. Self sows readily.

Traditional uses

Traditional use of Eschscholzia californica has been documented extensively. The whole plant is harvested while in flower and then dried. It can be consumed by smoking or as a tea and has the same mild sedative and anxiolytic effect either way. It is a popular smoking herb and as its effects are extremely mild, there is virtually no danger of overdosing. Concentrated preparations such as reduced tinctures may cause more pronounced effects, but there is still a wide safety margin.


California Poppy is related to the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), but does not contain opiate alkaloids. The alkaloids present are more closely related to those of the Argemone genus and include magnoflorin, canadinemethohydroxide, norargemonine and bisnorargemonine. Total alkaloid content is about 1% of dry weight.

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