Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, California

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in California, poppies closing in evening
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, poppies closing in evening / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

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 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.

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is included in the following list:

Top 10 locations of California poppy meadows and fields
Top 10 locations of California poppy meadows and fields

References

  1. California State Parks. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve SNR., accessed in the 21st February 2010
  2. Horticulture Information Page.
  3. Ask.Art. Jane Seymour Pinheiro, accessed in the 21st February 2010

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Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, California 34.732210, -118.395500 Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Coordinates: 34.73221 N 118.39550 W
Categories: Ecosystems
Values: Biology
Rating: (4 / 5)
Address: North America, United States, California, Los Angeles County, 75 km north from Los Angeles City, 24 km northeast from Lancaster
Area: 7.19 km2
Dominating species: California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.)

Landmarks of California

Golden Gate Bridge, California
Golden Gate Bridge / David Ohmer, / CC BY 2.0
Although California is one of states in the United States of America, Americans often compare it to a separate country, e.g. “if California would be a country, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world”. We can go on with this comparison – California has more landmarks and attractions than many large countries of the world.

Ecosystems

This is not alien planet. Group of Dragon's Blood Trees in Socotra
This is not alien planet. Group of Dragon’s Blood Trees in Socotra. (possibly taken outside Rokeb di Firmihin) / Rod Waddington, / CC BY-SA 2.0
Biotope is rather small area with uniform environmental conditions and specific community of life. Wondermondo describes biotopes and ecosystems which have striking looks, look very beautiful or have other unusual characteristics.

Recommended books

Guide to the Antelope Valley: San Andreas Ain’t No Fault of Mine

A fun and fact-filled guide to the Antelope Valley and High Desert area of Southern California. This book is an interesting practical guide to a myriad of unusual and interesting things to see and to do in the Antelope Valley. It provides a delightful mix of historical and contemporary information. Award-winning journalist Bonnie D. Stone provides directions and words of wisdom on how to get around and make the most of your travel and exploratory moments, as you see the incredible world-class attractions of the area from the largest concentration of petroglyphs to the World s rarest cats and the World s only drive-through earthquake fault.

Golden Poppies of California

California Indians thought fallen poppy petals were the source of the rgion’s mineral gold. John Muir saw California poppies as part of a “smooth, continuous bed of honey bloom.” For acclaimed nature photographer George D. Lepp, the flowers became an irresistible orange stream running through his life’s work.Lepp first encountered fields of blooming Eschscholzia californica during a chance visit to the Antelope Valley area. Intending to spend an afternoon photographing the bright orange flowers, he found himself overwhelmed by the sight of “vast fields of color” and didn’t stop shooting poppies for 15 years.

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