Saturday, August 23, 2014

Desert Poppies: Flowers of Sunshine and Rain

Kallstroemia grandiflora, desert poppy, arizona poppy, desert wildflower, yellow wildflower

Back in July they began blooming, brightening the roadside with brilliant golden-yellow.  Oddly enough, I could not locate these spectacular wildflowers in any of my books; but a very brief search across Google Images allowed easy identification as Kallstroemia grandiflora, the Desert Poppy.  Not a true poppy, nor even a member of the Papaveraceae, it nevertheless gives a bright golden-poppy effect, which has resulted in such common names as Desert Poppy and Arizona Poppy.  (The latter is too limiting as it grows also in the Mexican Sonora and across into California.)

Locally it grows to about 18 in (46 cm) high.  It is a very open, airy plant, often with two main blooming stems, giving a spread of about 3 ft (90 cm) - sometimes in one direction only!  The picture below is of a single plant.

desert poppy, Kallstroemia grandiflora, desert wildflower

However, in a little meadow down the road, it is growing more lushly, with plants spreading all directions and some clambering happily to about 4 ft (122 cm) over dead branches.  Foliage is medium green, sparse (as with many desert plants), and rather fernlike.

Desert Poppies, Kallstroemia grandiflora, wildflower, desert wildflower, yellow wildflower

bee, desert poppy, Kallstroemia grandiflora, desert garden, desert flower, yellow desert flower

The bees adore it and come away with bright orange bags of pollen.

Kallstroemia grandiflora, Larrea tridentata, desert poppy, arizona poppy, creosote

I even found one plant trying to support itself against the stems of a creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), though it was unable to bloom as freely in all that shade.

The blooms themselves are a delight.  They glow in the intense desert sun as if they were veritably made of the light themselves.  Golden-yellow petals deepen to scarlet at the flower center.  Stamens are yellow.  They close in the afternoon or on cloudy days.

desert poppy, arizona poppy, Kallstroemia grandiflora, desert garden

 However, they seem to be thoroughly enjoying the unusually heavy rain that has been falling.  As they grow in low, wet spots, they must be able to tolerate a range of moisture levels.  And when the sun shines again, they open out as bright as ever.

Kallstroemia grandiflora, desert poppy, desert gardening

No comments:

Post a Comment