|Coordinates:||34.73221 N 118.39550 W|
|No:||21 (list of all attractions)|
|Address:||North America, United States, California, Los Angeles County, 75 km north from Los Angeles City, 24 km northeast from Lancaster|
|Dominating species:||California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.)|
In the western part of Antelope Valley there is an amazing monument of nature – vast area covered with California poppies. In spring (late February – May) desert-like desolate hills become bright – they are colored by millions of these beautiful flowers. Nowadays this is protected area - Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
Natural history of valley in brief
In earlier times Antelope Valley was not that desert-like as it is today. There is archaeological evidence of rather dense population of diverse indigenous people, valley was rich with pronghorn antelopes (giving name to whole valley) and other animals. There were more springs and small lakes and taller plants than today.
Last centuries though have been more dry and gradually the western part of valley turned into arid land similar to desert. In fact it is considered to be a high desert: area is up to 900 metres (3000 feet) high.
Droughts have defeated some plants and animals but others have flourished in these harsh conditions. The term "flourish" is especially suitable regarding California poppy. This joyous, bright orange and fragile flower prefers dry soil and hates to be disturbed by shadow from taller plants or continuous disturbance by grazers.
Friends discover poppy
Although California was visited by white people since several centuries, the bright orange poppy was described by scientists only in the early 19th century.
In the 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.
Painter protects poppy field
The beautiful flower became a state flower of California in the late 19th century (some sources state – in 1903) and nowadays it is prohibited to pick, destroy or uproot this plant if found in wild.
Unfortunately this prohibition is not very efficient if housing is developed in former meadows – over the last decades fields of poppies sometimes are replaced by houses with lawns.
The only protected poppy meadow in California is Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. This area is closely connected with the personality of Jane Seymour Pinheiro (1907 – 1978). She moved over here, to Quartz Hill, in 1942 and became a well-known painter of poppies drawing them in watercolor with botanical precision. "Poppy lady" was behind the creation of reserve and interpretive centre (Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Centre) of the reserve is named after her. She organised purchase of poppy meadows in the 1960s together with other active women of Lancaster area – this land forms contemporary reserve.
How to experience poppies
Flowering time of California poppies in Antelope Valley may differ each year – but for most part it lasts from the late February to mid-May. Unfortunately there are years when poppies are scarce – such as few recent years after 2005. Follow the information about the expected bloom time at the Website of California State Parks.
Reserve will provide services and access for cars only during the flowering season. In remaining part of the year reserve is accessible for public in daytime, but one should leave car further away.
Bear in mind that poppies are sensitive to weather conditions: in harsh, windy weather they close and may not open if weather is cloudy. Often there is chilly wind in afternoons – better come earlier.
Come in weekdays – then you will have better chances to be alone with the unique nature of California.
Beware of rattlesnakes, especially in late spring – stay on pathways. Don’t take pets with you, and, of course, don’t pick flowers.
See Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve on the map of United States!
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is included in the following list:
- California State Parks. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve SNR., accessed in the 21st February 2010
- Horticulture Information Page, accessed in the 21st February 2010
- Ask.Art. Jane Seymour Pinheiro, accessed in the 21st February 2010