Thursday, March 18, 2010

Prickly Poppy

There are various species of prickly poppy, all virtually indistinguishable from each other. The prickly poppy is a branchy, pale green plant which grows up to four feet high. I've only seen it a few times, but I have been particularly struck by its beauty. The prickly poppy below was found in Whitewater Canyon.
This one was found in Borrego Palm Canyon.
The leaves and buds are covered with yellow thorns and it resembles a thistle.
It contains alkaloids that are poisonous, particularly found in the yellow sap. Cattle avoid the plant, so it can flourish on over-grazed land.  I did find a site of a person who smokes its leaves and seeds and reports that it produces a high similar to cannabis. The prickly poppy has beautiful white, papery, crepe-like flowers with a bright, single eye of yellow stamens.
I have read conflicting report accounts about blooms. Several accounts say that it blooms late spring to early summer (or April to May) and several say it blooms all year, but particularly in spring and summer. The flowers can be three inches wide and have six wrinkled petals. It is found in dry, sandy areas at an elevation of 1,000 to 3,500 feet. It is also called the thistle poppy (I have thought it to be a thistle until finding out otherwise), cowboy's fried egg (for obvious reason) and chicalote.
On April 3, 2010, I was with Andrew and Lauren off the Hayfield Rd. exit of I-10, just south of Joshua Tree National Park. We saw the largest pricly poppy I've seen,
with quite a few flowers.
It may perhaps be a different species as this one lacks the red stems.
We hiked most of the day and it was the only one we saw. Some buds
and the beautiful flower.
I went back to the same area two weeks later, on April 17th, and saw one other plant. This picture is of beautiful multiple flowers.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    wanting a "cholla forest" picture to show my husband brought me to your blog. I've now been on several pages and I just want to say thank you, I'm loving your great pix and info! I live in Alaska but was just in Joshua Tree, enjoying a botany class and, woe is me, I had to leave before the full bloom hit (and it was sure looking like a winner was on the way! :-) )
    Thank you again for the great info and pix! :-)