California's state flower is the California poppy, also known as the golden poppy because it is usually bright yellow or reddish in color. Scientifically known as Eschscholzia Californica, this poppy is indigenous to California and Mexico, but it has been known to vastly exceed its native range, and has even been found growing wild in other countries, including France and Chile. The golden poppy was officially designated as California's state flower in 1903. It's celebrated with an annual state holiday, California Poppy Day, on 6 April, and with Poppy Week, which occurs yearly from 13 to 18 May. The seeds, roots and leaves of California's state flower are considered to have sub-opiate properties, and were traditionally used by native peoples to treat insomnia and relieve pain.
The species of poppy native to California appears to prefer desert habitats. As garden plants, they are considered well-suited to rocky or sandy soil. California's state flower is also common in the desert regions of Nevada, the Baja peninsula, southern Washington State, and New Mexico. They have been known to thrive at relatively high elevations of up to 6561.7 feet (2,000 meters). They typically grow to a height of between 7.9 and 23.6 inches (20 to 60 centimeters). The blooms are typically bright yellow, orange or reddish and can reach widths of 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters).
The golden poppy belongs to the poppy family, Papaverales, which is part of the subclass Magnoliidae. As a species, the California poppy is considered so ancient that the course of its genetic evolution may not be accurately determined. Many botanists consider these poppies to be among the last survivors of a prehistoric group of flowering plants now largely extinct.
Native Americans of the region are believed to have relied on the California poppy's medicinal properties for pain relief and sedative purposes. Native peoples are believed to have created infusions from the plant's boiled stems, leaves and roots. Modern herbalists believe that the California poppy contains a sub-opiate compound, similar to morphine, but lacking the side effect of central nervous system depression. Some continue to use California's state flower for its medicinal properties, which, in addition to pain relief and sedation, may also include anti-spasmodic properties. Conditions for which the California poppy may have medicinal value include insomnia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), persistent cough, and nerve pain.