Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: "Parish's Poppy"


Last updated 7/18/2023 at 11:48am

It was like being greeted by the spring wildflowers that lined the rocky sides of the sandy desert wash as I approached.

The cluster of happy little Parish's poppies seemed to act that way as their bright yellow flowers danced with excitement at the end of delicate stems in a spring breeze.

Also known as desert or pygmy poppies, this is a cousin to the slightly larger and more colorful California Poppy but is an annual wildflower native to the deserts of Southern California to an elevation of about 4,000 feet. Flowers generally bloom in March but can appear in late January through April when conditions are right.

Growing from about two inches to nearly a foot in height, this desert poppy is generally found in small clusters on gravelly desert slopes and hillsides.

The plant is bright green to a yellow-green with thin stalks tipped by the showy spring flower composed of four petals and measuring up to 1.5 inches in size.

On sunny days, the flowers will be open but close at night or on overcast days.

This plant was used medicinally by native peoples to treat venereal sores.

The Parish's poppy is a nice addition to spring landscapes, especially if you are trying to attract birds and bees. Additionally, the plant is a host to several species of butterflies and moths, including the white-lines sphinx moth.

The wildflowers of spring have faded now, but look for Parish's poppies to be greeting you next spring as they dance excitedly in the remote places of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

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