Matilija poppy (fried egg plant)

The Matilija poppy (aka the fried egg plant), Romneya coulteri, is native to southern California and northern Mexico. The shrub, itself, can get up to 8 feet tall, and the flowers are upto 8 inches in diameter.

They are called “fried eggs plants” because the flower has an intense yellow center in a field of crinkled white petals. The plant is also known as a “fire follower” because it frequently establishes itself in recently burned areas. The California Native Plant Society claims that seeds will not germinate “unless they have experienced the flash heat of wild fire.”

Matilija poppy

The plant is a perennial that prefers sunny locations and good soil, but will grow in clay, and in dry, rocky soil. The flower has an apricot-like scent. Individual flowers last several days, then form seed pods that resemble a bird cage.

The foliage consists on blueish-gray to green, deeply lobed leaves that have a leathery texture. The base of the stems often become woody with age. The plant acts as a semi-shrub, spreading by rhizomes year by year until large clumps are formed.

The flowers bloom from late Spring through late Summer. You can see some at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. (See more photos here.)

Planting the Matilija poppy in a garden is apparently hit or miss. According the an article in the Los Angeles Times: “If a Matilija poppy doesn’t like where it’s planted, it will promptly wither and die. If it does like the location, then after a modest first season, the Matilija can proceed to colonize a garden. Success can be uneven.” According to another California source, Growing Native, “This plant has idiosyncratic and unpredictable needs. It will sulk and die in what you would think would be a perfect place, and thrive gloriously in an apparently unsuitable one.”

A tincture or tea made from this plant has been used externally for skin inflamation due to allergies or sunburn. This concoction is also reputed to have antimicrobial properties. (Source).

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