Fried Egg Poppy
Twenty years ago, I was walking with some friends through the arid chaparral of Quail Valley. At the time it was undeveloped land east of Del Mar in Southern California. Now the whole area is ticky tacky cookie cutter homes with amenities so many of us end up buying in our thirties and forties. Anyhow, we came upon a wild flower that stopped us dead in our tracks. At first glance it resembled a gigantic weed. Its foliage was scrubby and rough but its flower was a wonder to behold. It made such an impression, that even some twenty years later I can describe where I was and who I was with. There are many alluring and fascinating creatures and plants that live and love this Southern California climate but none as amazing as the Matilija poppy or commonly referred as a “fried egg” poppy.
Its large eight inch flowers have six petals that resemble pleated crape paper and its stamens (yes, it has many) form a large yellow ball-like cluster. From a distance, it looks exactly like a fried egg, sunny side up. This plant thrives in a rocky, sun baked, arid climate but its history alludes to loving other climates as well. One of my sources site, the plant’s origins are from Ireland. Another source claims the poppy as being “quite popular in England, it grows equally well in our local environs.”
It is an interesting and beautiful plant, so perhaps we could have these in our own gardens? Well sure but there are a few things to consider first. This plant needs elbow room. Much like the Forsythia it takes over and will evict its neighbors without hesitation. After years of growth it will become woody and tree like. In the right location, the plant can reach eight feet tall and more than half as wide. Don’t over water this beauty as it likes to be a little thirsty. Finally, “to encourage flower-bearing branches measuring four to six feet, cut the plant back to the ground each winter. “
I am in the process of researching this plant with our local Master Gardeners through Missouri University. If I can pull this off perhaps I can have a little piece of what I miss about California here in Missouri. If it doesn’t work out I will stick to painting my “fried egg” flowers. Below is my impression of this Matilija beauty.
Fried Egg Poppy
by Kristen E. Haskell
8" x 10"
My information came from the following websites: