Foliage Friday: California Tree Poppy

I came across a bush with giant white paper-mache-like flowers.

The California Tree Poppy (Romneya coulteri) is a member of the poppy family (Papaveraceae).

It was nominated to be the State Flower of California in 1890, but was beat out by another California poppy – called simply, “California Poppy” (Eschscholzia californica).

California Poppy (image from wikipedia)

California Tree Poppy, as its name suggests, is native to California, and it gets quite large for a poppy. It is technically a “subshrub” which means that it is a plant the grows like a bush with buds that are very close to surface of the ground. This type of growth is particularly advantageous in climates with frequent fires, heavily grazed areas, or arctic areas with frequent freezes. The low buds are largely protected from these hazards, allowing the plant to survive in situations where many plants would not.

Another name for subshrubs is “chamaephytes” in the parlance of Danish botanist Raunkiaer’s life-form schema. (chamai- means on the ground in Greek). All plant species are classified into a few groups based on where dormant organs (aka buds) are on the plant, and therefore how able they are to withstand harsh climates (i.e. extreme cold or dry weather).

Chamaephytes are #2 and #3 in this diagram
Image source: here

The groups are broadly (1) phanerophytes – large trees and shrubs, (2 and 3) chamaephytes – subshrubs, (4) hemicryptophytes – dandelions, (5 and 6) geophytes – bulbs or tubers, (7) helophytes – marsh plants, like cattails, and (8 and 9) hydrophytes – aquatic plants like water lilies. Additionally, there are epiphytes, aerophytes, and therophytes, but I’ve probably lost your interest already.

Anyway…as I was saying, the California Tree Poppy is a subshrub, which means its buds are very close to the ground so it is well-suited to our dry and fire-prone climate.

This concludes today’s botany lesson. I hope you learned something.

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