Top 10 locations of California poppy meadows

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

List of 10 meadows

Wondermondo has listed some of the most gorgeous California poppy meadows below, in alphabetic order.

1. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

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

This could be the most impressive of all the meadows listed here. It is located in the western part of Antelope Valley and since the 1960ies there is a nature reserve. Area of the reserve is 1,777 acres (7.19 km2), state has arranged also tourist facilities and nature trails.

2. Bear Valley wildflower meadows

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

The desolate and vast Bear valley is one of the largest remaining Californian arid grasslands. Besides the Californian poppies here grow creamcups (Platystemon californicus Benth.), adobe lilies (Fritillaria pluriflora Torr. ex Benth.) and many other wildflowers.

3. Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows

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

Carrizo Plain is one of the most unique and beautiful ecosystems in California. These arid grasslands have especially high diversity of wildflowers. This includes 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.

4. Wildflower meadows of Dry Creek, Tulare County

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

One of the most impressive floral displays in this part of California in sycamore alluvial woodlands and open grasslands.

The landscape there is not entirely natural: part of this wonderful grassland was restored after the closure of gravel mine.

5. Poppy and lupine fields of Figueroa Mountain

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

Hillsides of the Figueroa Mountain in the spring turn into beautiful, lush meadows with countless flowers. Add a stately backdrop of forested mountains and you get a perfect landscape.

In these meadows grow sky lupines and California poppies with patches of magenta padre’s shooting stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii Greene) and chocolate lilies (Fritillaria biflora Lindl.) and numerous other flowers. Gorgeous meadows of goldfields (Lasthenia ssp.) grow in more open areas.

6. Flower fields of Gorman Hills

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

Not too far from the famous Antelope Valley poppy meadows is one more location with millions of Californian spring 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.).

The beautiful California poppies add orange accents and in many places they form golden colored meadows.

7. Poppy meadows of Merced Valley and Hite Cove

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

One of the most popular routes in the Yosemite National Park is Highway 140 along the Merced River. Closer to the Yosemites the valley gradually becomes deeper and deeper. The steep hillsides on both banks of the river turn bright orange in springtime, during the blom of poppies.

8. Walker Canyon poppy fields

Spring flowers in Walker Canyon
Spring flowers in Walker Canyon./ Beau Rogers, Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Some areas near the giant Los Angeles City have been spared of urban development and are relatively intact. One of such locations is Lake Elsinore area, Walker Canyon.

One of such places is on both sides of I-15 highway between Alberhill and Lake Elsinore. For the most part of the year these hills seem to be desolate and lifeless… But wait for a miraculous change in the late February – April: millions of wildflowers color the hills in gaudy, lively colors!

9. Point Buchon poppy meadows

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

At Point Buchons is one of the best seaside Californian poppy meadows. This approximately 6 km long stretch of seaside plain is covered with millions of bright orange flowers during the spring.

For long years these beautiful meadows were closed for public. Since 2007 – 2008 up to 275 people per day can to enjoy them.

10. Shell Creek Road meadows

Shell Creek Road meadows, California
Shell Creek Road meadows / Kevin Cole, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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 a lively landscape. Further towards the north the valley becomes more arid and devoid of trees. But even this place is very rich with spring wildflowers.

In the late February – April Shell Creek Road becomes an important destination for wildflower enthusiasts and photographers. Diverse scenery and diversity of plants provide plenty of excellent views.

Map of the top 10 locations of California poppy meadows and fields

California poppy

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.) grows 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. Now try to imagine: there are locations where one can see millions of these beautiful flowers close together!

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

Little sun

California poppy belongs to a family of poppies. It certainly looks like a typical poppy with its bright colored cup of large, fragile petals and ternately divided, segmented leaves. It is hard to describe the color of this flower to those who have not seen it in life – it is a 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. Often there happens a repeated flowering in autumn, September.

These flowers love grassy, open areas. Such are the arid grasslands of Californian intermontane valleys, seaside meadows or talus of steep hillsides. In good conditions, flowers can be perennial, in colder conditions – annual. These poppies love sun and sandy, well-drained soil. They often re-colonize clearances after forest fires. Flowers are drought-resistant – in spring they cover areas which in summer seem to be nearly lifeless.

Before the night the flowers close and do not open if the weather is cloudy. This is an important factor when considering a visit to California poppy meadows.

California poppy is highly variable. Some specialists divide them into a number of subspecies or even in distinct species.

Discovery of poppy fields

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

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

In the early 19th century Russian empire organised several rather successful voyages around the world. Thus the empire extended the political and economical contacts. During such voyages groups of scientists traditionally were taken aboard. Brig "Rurik" made its trip in 1815 – 1818. 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. When Chamisso described the beautiful orange Californian flower, he named the plant after his friend – Eschscholzia californica Cham. Letter "t" from the family of Eschscholtz somehow was lost.

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 that we won’t see anymore: the endless, 400 miles long and 30 miles wide “sea” of spring flowers of Central Valley in California. Most of this unique grandeur is gone now, meadows have been replaced by pastures, roads, and buildings.

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

California poppy meadows belong to most impressive wildflower displays of the world. Their unusually clear and brilliant color seems to come from another, better reality. This flower has created a passion that is rare 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 a really nice retreat from the stressed rhythm of city life.

Conservation of meadows

Law prohibits to pick or uproot a California poppy in wild. But sometimes really nice poppy meadow without hiking trails 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.

Visitors face one potential danger while walking in California poppy meadows: rattlesnakes. Maybe there is little chance to meet them in late February – March, but you never know.


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