As a native of California, I have had a thing for the California Golden Poppy – the Golden State’s official flower – since I was a little boy.
I grew up in the then sparsely populated hills of Oakland, California, in the United States, and I recall that each spring these lovely golden blossoms would start to appear among the oak, eucalyptus, pine, and redwood trees that dotted the sylvan, hilly landscape near my home. A few would find their ways to the steep banks of the many creeks that crisscrossed the city. But they were most bountiful on the undulating hillsides, which turned into rippling golden waves when carressed by spring breezes.
I read that in earlier times, passengers riding the railway linking my home town with Southern California would take sacks of poppy and other wildflower seeds with them and scatter them from the windows of the train as it passed through California’s sun-baked Central Valley.
When I got older, I would emulate them, purchasing packs of poppy seeds and scattering them from the window of my car along Joaquin Miller Road and Skyline Boulevard in the beautiful Oakland Hills, which afford spectacular views of the entire San Francisco Bay Area.
After my mother died many years back, I visited her birth place with my aunts Mary and Anne in Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, whose only claim to fame is that for 100 years it served as the North American landing point of the transatlantic communications cable. One of my uncles, in fact, worked for a time in the Cable Station, which has since been turned into a fascinating museum.
Before leaving California, I purchased a large can of poppy seeds. Just as I would do in California, I scattered them about the landscape when no one was looking. I’ve never known if they took seed or were simply blown into the dark cold waters of the North Atlantic.
And if they did, in fact, blossom the following spring, I wonder what the residents of that tiny hamlet would have made of them? Would they have realized that they had been brought by a descendant of their windswept village all the way from Sunny California?
When and Where to See California Golden Poppies
From the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Carmel Coast to the Mojave Desert, California Golden Poppies can be found throughout the state, but one of the best spots to view them is in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, which is located about 60 to 90 minutes north of Los Angeles.
The best time to take them in is in late April, but they continue to bloom throughout the summer – pretty much until they are washed away by autumnal rains.
You can pick up a map of the Antelope Valley showing the best spots to view California Golden Poppies at the Lancaster Museum/Art Gallery in Lancaster, California.
How to Get There
Lancaster is about 70 miles or 115 kilometres north of Los Angeles, California. The closest major airport is at Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena. There are also express buses linking the Antelope Valley with LAX.
California Poppy Festival
From 10 am to 6 pm on 24 and 25 April, the California Poppy Festival will take place – rain or shine! – at the Lancaster City Park at 43011 N. 10th Street West in Lancaster, California. Lots of family fun and plenty of yummy food! Tickets are US$5 or $8, depending on your age. Children under five and parking are free.
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Copyright: Michael Taylor
Pictured: family fun at the California Poppy Festival in Lancaster, California
Photo Coutesy of the City of Lancaster, California