Each summer in Blenheim, New Zealand, thousands of vibrant orange Californian poppies raise their happy heads along the dry gravelly river beds. While classified as a weed in New Zealand, they always bring a smile to my face, especially when I see their first display. This summer, I was determined to photograph them and the next sunny day, I found myself walking along a rocky riverbed, taking happy snaps.
It's a weed
Although a simple and pretty flower, it competes with native grasses and herbs. Unfortunately, it was brought to New Zealand by miners after the California Gold Rush ended. The ballast of their ships contained sand and poppy seed from the bluffs of San Francisco.
As in California, the poppy likes an open and sunny environment with well-drained or dry soils. As the seed capsule browns and dries, it explodes, dispersing its seed up to two metres away. In New Zealand, it has established itself in habitats such as braided riverbeds, scree slopes and disturbed land.
- The Californian Poppy's botanical name is Eschscholzia californica.
- It is a native plant of western United States.
- At night and on cloudy, cool days, their flower heads stay closed.
- It is a traditional medicine of the indigenous people of west America.