Bush poppy (Dendromecon rigida), also called a tree poppy, is a shrub native to California and Baja Mexico. Rarely growing to more than 10 feet in height, bush poppies inhabit chaparral and woodlands below 5,500 feet in the Coast Range and Sierra foothills. Bush poppies also thrive in recently burned areas.
Bush poppies plants are freely branching with grey to whitish shredding bark. Their greyish-green, hairless, alternate leaves are evergreen. Lanceolate in shape, bush poppy leaves appear to have a smooth margin, but close inspection reveals minute, fine teeth. The species name, rigida (rigid), derives from Latin and refers to the stiff, leathery leaves with prominent center veins.
Bush poppy flowers occur individually at the ends of branches. They strongly resemble small California poppy flowers (see “California Poppy” on 07-09-12). The flowers have four (rarely five) bright yellow petals, many stamens and a superior, single-celled ovary. The stamens have short filaments and yellow to orange anthers. There are two reddish sepals that fall off when the flower blooms. The flower stalks are long, up to 3 inches in length.
Dendromecon, the genus designation, comes from the Greek “dendron” (tree) and “mecon” (poppy).
Leonard and I found these bush poppies along the Shasta Caverns Road near Lake Shasta (Shasta County CA) in early April.
Tomorrow: bush poppy fruits and seeds.