Welcome to Tuesday Night Company, an ever-fattening storehouse of information on plants, landscape design, naturalism, and the future. This is K.C.
Today’s featured plant is from Southern California: the Matilija poppy, or fried-egg poppy, Romneya coulteri.
I worked on a Romneya coulteri micropropagation project in which we were trying to grow more poppies from tissue. It wasn’t going well. It only wants to grow via root cuttings and we were growing a cultivar, which meant the seeds wouldn’t grow true to the type of mother plant they came from. I don’t know if the project ever achieved its goal…
A perennial that dies back at the end of each summer, it grows up to eight feet tall and can flower from April through August (with some extra water in the heat of the summer). The flowers are truly massive, as wide as 6″ across. It’s both hard to start and hard to stop – once established, it’ll spread by underground roots (rhizomes) to cover an area of over 8 feet square. They’re a bit prickly, so they can be a pain to remove.
In the wild, I encountered it most often in the dry flatlands near riverbeds, or in disturbed burn areas. This batch was found in Trabuco Canyon, Orange County.