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Top 10 locations of California poppy meadows

List of 10 meadows

Below in alphabetic order are listed 10 gorgeous meadows of Californian poppies.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

1. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Possibly the most impressive California poppy meadow, located in the western part of Antelope Valley. Nature reserve since 1960ies, area - 1,777 acres (7.19 km2). Tourist facilities and nature trails arranged.


Poppies in Bear Valley, Colusa
Poppies in Bear Valley, Colusa. / Wikimedia Commons, user Agunther CC BY 3.0

2. Bear Valley wildflower meadows

Largest remaining Californian arid grasslands next to Antelope Valley and Carrizo Plain. Desolate, vast valley, rich not only with California poppy but also creamcups (Platystemon californicus Benth.), adobe lilies (Fritillaria pluriflora Torr. ex Benth.) and many other wildflowers.


Goldfields in Carrizo Plain
Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

3. Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows

One of the most unique natural complexes in California, vast remnant of arid grasslands. Large meadows of diverse wildflowers such as California goldfield (Lasthenia californica DC. ex Lindl.), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth.), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.), tidy tips (Layia platyglossa ( Fisch. & C.A.Mey.) A.Gray) and numerous other species.


Meadows of Dry Creek Preserve
Meadows of Dry Creek Preserve / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

4. Wildflower meadows of Dry Creek, Tulare County

Sycamore alluvial woodland together with open grassland further away from the creek provides one of the most impressive floral displays in this part of California.

Landscape is made even more impressive by the fact that it is partly restored after closure of gravel mine.


Poppy field near Mount Figureoa
Poppy field near Mount Figureoa / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

5. Poppy and lupine fields of Figueroa Mountain

Hillsides of the Figueroa Mountain represent a beautiful, refreshing sight in spring - lush meadows full with flowers. Add a stately backdrop of forested mountains and you get a perfect landscape.

Hillsides are covered here with sky lupines and California poppies. For diversity in many locations one can see patches of magenta padre's shooting stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii Greene), chocolate lilies (Fritillaria biflora Lindl.). In more open areas there are rich displays of goldfields (Lasthenia ssp.) and numerous other flowers.


Spring colors in Gorman Hills
Spring colors of Gorman Hills. / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

6. Flower fields of Gorman Hills

Not too far from the famous Antelope Valley poppy meadows there is another well-known location where in spring-time there can be observed magnificent florescence of Californian flowers.

Most common flower species here are the yellow California tickseeds (Coreopsis californica (Nuttall) H. Sharsmith), blue Bentham lupines (Lupinus benthamii A.Heller), blue bluehead gilias (Gilia capitata Sims) and lacy phacelias (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth.).

Orange accents are added by the beautiful California poppies ((Eschscholzia californica Cham.) in many places forming larger golden colored meadows.


Poppy meadow in Merced River valley
Poppy meadow in Merced River valley / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

7. Poppy meadows of Merced Valley and Hite Cove

Not too far from the famous Antelope Valley poppy meadows there is another well-known location where in spring-time there can be observed magnificent florescence of Californian flowers.

One of the most popular routes leading into the Yosemite National Park is Highway 140 along the Merced River. When approaching the Yosemites the valley gradually becomes deeper and deeper. In springtime the beautiful landscape is supplemented by unusual sight - high hillsides on both banks of the river bedome colored bright orange by millions of poppies.


Meadows near Lake Elsinore
Meadows near Lake Elsinore / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

8. Walker Canyon poppy fields

Lake Elsinore area is located in the Greater Los Angeles Area - there are approximately 16 million people living here. Some areas near Los Angeles though have been spared of urban development and are even relatively intact.

One of such places is seen from I-15 highway between Alberhill and Lake Elsinore. In both sides of the road there are desolate hills which for most part of the year seem to be nearly lifeless. But in the spring - in late February - April - there happens miraculous change - greyish hills become covered with large bright colored patches of wildflowers.


Point Buchon poppy meadows
Point Buchon poppy meadows / docentjoyce, / CC BY 2.0

9. Point Buchon poppy meadows

One of the best seaside Californian poppy meadows is located at Point Buchon. Often in spring this approximately 6 km long and up to 0.8 km wide stretch of seaside plain is covered with millions of bright orange California poppies.

For long years these beautiful meadows were closed for public but since 2007 - 2008 up to 275 people per day are allowed to enjoy them.


Meadows around the Shell Creek Road
Meadows around the Shell Creek Road / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

10. Shell Creek Road meadows

The diverse and beautiful Shell Creek meadows can serve as a teaching ground for learning the Californian wildflowers. Undulating hills with occasional groups of trees and gallery forest along Shell Creek form here a lively landscape. Further towards the north the valley becomes more arid and devoid of trees - but still rich with spring wildflowers.

In spring, in late February - April Shell Creek Road becomes an important destination for wildflower enthusiasts and especially - for photographers. Diverse scenery and diversity of plants provide plenty of excellent views.

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California poppy

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.) grows in diverse conditions in the western part of Northern America from Oregon in the north to Baja California in the south. Even a single orange (often - yellow) flower of this plant emits fragile and exquisite beauty but there are locations where one can see millions of these beautiful flowers close together.

Little sun

California Poppy, close-up
California Poppy, close-up / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

California poppy belongs to family of poppies and it certainly looks like a typical poppy with its solitary, bright colored cup of large, fragile petals and ternately divided, segmented leaves. It is hard to describe the gorgeous color of this flower to those who have not seen it in life - it is brilliant, clear orange or light orange color. This hue is of rare beauty and has given a deserved fame to this flower.

California poppies flower in spring - in late February - April, but rather often there takes place a repeated flowering in autumn, September.

It loves grassy, open areas - such as arid grasslands of Californian intermontane valleys, seaside meadows or talus of steep hillsides. In good conditions it can be perennial, in colder conditions - annual. Poppies love sun and sandy, well-drained soil, they often re-colonise clearances after forest fires. They are drought-resistant - in spring they cover areas which in summer seem to be nearly lifeless.

Love of sun is expressed in an interesting way - before the night the flowers close and remain closed if weather is cloudy. This is important factor when considering a visit to poppy meadow.

California Poppies closing in evening
Evening is coming and flowers close. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

California poppy is highly variable and there is some confusion regarding the number of subspecies or even division in several distinct species. One easily noticeable variation is color of flowers which can alternate between bright yellow and deep orange.

History of discovery

Although California was visited by white people since several centuries, the bright orange poppy was described by scientists only in early 19th century.

In early 19th century Russian empire organised several rather successful voyages around the world to extend the political and economical contacts of empire. During such voyages groups of scientists traditionally were taken aboard. Brig "Rurik" made its trip in 1815 – 1818 and the botanist of the team was German Adelbert von Chamisso but enthomologist – Baltic German from the present day Estonia Friedrich von Eschscholtz. Both became close friends during the expedition and when Chamisso described the beautiful orange Californian flower, he named the plant after his friend - Eschscholzia californica Cham. Letter "t" somehow is lost from the family of Eschscholtz in the Latin name of the plant.

Orange meadows

Great naturalist John Muir wrote in his memoirs: "Go where I would, east or west, north or south, I still plashed and rippled in flower-gems". In 1868 he was privileged to see something what we won't see anymore - the endless sea (400 miles long and 30 miles wide) of spring flowers of Central Valley in California. Nearly all of this unique grandeur is gone now, meadows have been replaced by pastures, roads and buildings. Meadows consist of numerous flowers but one of the most prominent ones are poppies.

Poppies in Merced River valley
Poppies in Merced River valley / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

California poppy meadows belong to most impressive wildflower displays of the world. The unusually clear and brilliant color seems to be from other (better) reality. This flower has created a passion what is seldom seen elsewhere in the world: many Californians are obsessed with "wildflower hunting" - search of beautiful meadows, photographing and just pure enjoyment of beauty. There are quite many species of wildflowers and many people here enjoy learning to distinguish them. This is really nice retreat from the stressed rhythm of city life.

Law prohibits to pick or uproot a California poppy in wild. But if there is really nice poppy meadow and there are not arranged hiking trails, meadow might soon get a dense net of trails. If one car stops at the roadside and people walk out in the meadow, soon there stop ten more cars and people disperse in meadow.

Due to this Wondermondo advises to enjoy poppies in places which are suited for this: Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, trails around Figueroa Mountain, Hite Cove trail, Point Buchon Trail. Although there might be more people, there are also more chances to see untouched poppy meadows.

There is one more potential danger regarding walking in California poppy meadows - rattlesnakes. May be there is little chance to meet them in late February - March, but you never know.