late afternoon among the poppies

Here is a late-afternoon shot of Eschscholzia californica ‘Carmine King’, in the garden next door, closed up because the sun went away, as it often does here in late spring and summer. I got the seed from J. L. Hudson from whom I’ve been ordering for many years now. Also got ‘White Linen’ which is elsewhere in this garden.

I like these plants a lot; have no explanation why I sow the seed in other peoples’ gardens and not my own. The plant pictured is growing in deep creek-bottom loam and if it gets the taproot just right, it can be a perennial. How many plants do you know that can be either annual or perennial? (I mean assuming they live.)

Out of curiosity, I looked up the number of species in the genus Eschscholzia (last time I’ll type that). E. L. Greene described well over a hundred taxa, species and subspecies, native to California and Mexico, but Greene believed that a species was fixed by God. You find a plant with funnier leaves than all the rest, and it’s a species.

Not every contemporary botanist was fond of Greene’s “splitting”, and when he died, Marcus Jones said “Greene, the pest of systematic botany, has gone and relieved us from his botanical drivel.” And you thought scientists admired each other.

The Jepson Manual accepts 12 (twelve) species (ironically, Jepson was Greene’s most famous pupil), as does Flora of North America. The genus is found in California and Baja California and Sonora. Maybe elsewhere.

So every time I see one of these plants I think of botanists, hurling botanical journals into the fire, throwing herbarium sheets across the room, and generally behaving like G.M. Hopkins’ description of Browning: “a man bouncing up from table with mouth full of bread and cheese and saying that he meant to stand no blasted nonsense.”

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3 Responses to late afternoon among the poppies

  1. Pingback: leafage and branchage | the miserable gardener

  2. Last sentence made me laugh. Also, I am thrilled to read that the Eschscholzia can be perennials. I’ve noticed this, but wondered if I was mistaken.

    • paridevita says:

      Perennial according to Jepson. They seem to be here, too, sometimes. The perennial ones have an enormous taproot that’s orange, if nicked. I think Jepson means “short lived perennial”, though.

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