My first spring on the North Coast, I fell in love with the California poppy. Somehow on my previous trips to California I hadn't noticed it, but come late May it was blooming in Arcata. I noticed it especially around the HSU campus, and on the median of L.K. Wood (now shorn to golf course grass and poppy-free).
It was the color, that bright orange that first attracted me, along with their wild abundance. I examined one cluster more closely and noticed that there was variety--some were partly white, some yellow, some a deeper orange that was almost red. A student wandering by informed me that this poppy is the California state flower (true) and that it's illegal to pick them (not true.)
I confess I picked a few anyway and took them home, because having them around made me happy. We didn't have any growing in our yard, but now we do. It cheers me up to see them, especially in those times when I'm not sure what I'm doing here, or if I'll ever feel at home. The poppies keep coming back, glowing and spreading themselves everywhere--today I saw a yard where they were growing up a trellis. Hooray for them.
These flowers are native, and were used medicinally by Native peoples. Powered and smoked, they're said to have a mild sedative effect. Just looking at them produces an effect in me--even this May, my ninth on the North Coast.