Useful Yard

In the very front of the yard, it rises above the street and catches all the afternoon sun it can get.


In Dave Goulson’s A Sting in the Tale, a book that motivated me to pay attention to bumblebees, he discusses California tree poppies. The passage escapes me now but I know it was the first time I’d heard of this plant. And it was the reason I was so happy to see it offered on a Rare Plants table at a local nursery. A full, one-gallon perennial might cost $12.99; this was $23.99. I didn’t hesitate.

It took two attempts to get one settled. The roots are notoriously precious but once they’re well-set, in a well-drained sandy site, they take off and spread several feet, if not forever. The stems themselves reach up to eight-feet tall, with flowers at the top. I welcome this takeover!

Planted in 2019, it grew a couple feet in 2020, but without flowers. In 2021—as I write this in late June—it has reached four-feet and five big flower buds have exploded into bright beacons. White as white can be with a rich yellow center. Common names for plants are often confusing and ignorant, but when you hear this described as a fried egg poppy, and then see a new one opened flat in the morning, you know there’s never been a better moniker.1

  1. A summary of all the names: the genus Romneyi is for Thomas Romney Robinson, an astronomer and friend of Thomas Coulter (coulteri), a physician and botanist, who collected this species. They’re both Irish. Matilija comes “from an area in Ventura County, Matilija Canyon, where this plant is abundant that was named for Chief Matilija of the Chumash Indian Tribe.” —San Marcos Growers. So three proper names! At least two common names. Enough already. 



Endemic to Southern California and NW Mexico.


3-feet tall after two years — annual growth starting from ground. Stems can reach up to 8-feet tall in a single year.


All the good stuff! Native to the West, draught-tolerant, bee magnet… and let’s be honest: gorgeous.



Relatives in the Yard

None listed (yet)