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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Jun 03

In the Know

Posted on June 3, 2016 at 8:11 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

California poppies
 California poppies
This past week the doorbell rang at the ranch in Lassen. There stood my new neighbor with a fistful of California poppies asking me to identify them. She expressed interest in creating a native garden and thought these plants would be the perfect substitute for Artemisia 'Powis Castle' with the advantage of orange flowers. She asked me to share what I could about their growing conditions, their exposure and water needs, and optimal drainage and soil.

Of course I'm all for planting natives, but as she spoke I could only stand there staring dumbfounded at the beautiful bouquet. Finally I managed to croak out the question of concern: “Where did you pick these?” You see, our ranches are entwined by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). I knew my neighbor just came in from town and drove through hundreds of acres belonging to BLM. I also knew that my neighbor was originally from Ohio and so did not grow up with the admonishment never to pick California poppies. In fact, it was more than an admonishment: I recall being told as a child that it was illegal to pick these beautiful flowers that covered our hillsides during the spring and summer.

After relaying this information to my neighbor, I thought it prudent to go back and double-check the law. My research discovered some interesting information, which I won't share just yet. You'll have to stay tuned for next week … or look up the answer for yourself!

In the meantime, I am curious if most of you, my readers, are native Californians or if you are originally from out of state? For those from out-of-state: Did you know that the poppy is our state flower? I was surprised that my Ohio-raised neighbor was unaware of this and seemed unconcerned about having picked the poppies. For those who grew up here: Do you also recall hearing about a law to protect our state flower from those passing by along roadsides or hiking over hill and dale collecting orange bouquets along the trails? If you looked it up, were you surprised by what you found?

California poppy
In closing, I would like to mention that Libby Pischel, MMWD's Public Information Manager, has been the person managing the writings of this blog for all the years since I retired. Libby is taking this big step of retirement now in her life. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the joy it has been working with her. She gave me freedom to express the passion I have about gardening as well as providing an avenue to share family life’s joys and sorrows with you. Libby, you will be missed. Thank you for your support and being the manager that you have been.


David Liebendorfer
June 3, 2016 at 3:07 PM
I grew up in Pennsylvania but have now lived in California for 35 years (25 in SF, 10 in Marin), and I recall hearing early in my young days living in California that it was illegal to pick any wildflower in the wild (and particularly in any federal or state park land). It was interesting to read your post, and then google what the actual law is.

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