The first time I saw a Matilija Poppy I could hardly believe my eyes! Such a large flower, with petals so white that they could be a bridal dress for a Barbie doll! Not only are they magnificent, but they are also a native plant in Southern California! A wild flower! I have noticed them growing on the Del Dios Highway, close to Del Mar, Ca. A neighbor of ours who was into horticulture once told me about them, and showed me some that were growing on her property. Two years ago I bought a plant labeled “Matilija Poppy” and it did flower with large white blossoms, but I soon realized it was a rock rose, NOT the special flower I expected.
Last year I bought another plant labeled “Matilija Poppy” from a nursery that specializes in native plants. It was expensive, so I hoped it was the real thing, and since it was blooming when I bought it, there was little risk! Someone told me that they are very tricky to get started, so I wasn’t sure if it would grow on the ranch. I planted it on the bank between our house and the avocado grove. Information online stated that I should cut it back in the fall, but I didn’t because there was new growth coming on the old stalks. By the end of winter, I could see that new stalks were growing from the ground, so I went ahead and cut the old ones. A few weeks ago I noticed buds forming!
If you are a native Californian, these flowers may not seem that special to you. I grew up in Vermont with the beautiful woodland and meadow wildflowers of New England. In Vermont, I know when to expect each flower to sprout and bloom during the all-too-short spring and summer months. It is such a pleasure to finally have a little bit of familiarity with the native flora of our avocado ranch. To find a bud like this one is exciting!
It’s easy to tell why they call this a “Fried Egg Flower”, isn’t it? The petals are the whitest white and the center is the color of the freshest yolk. Since the flowers don’t last a long time, this is blooming just outside my kitchen window.
This is only the first blossom for 2012. It’s going to be glorious to see the rest of those buds mature and bloom!
Want to see an avocado recipe that will remind you of this flower? Take a look at Black Bean Cakes with Fried Eggs and Avocado Crema on Chow.com.