California Poppies and Gold
June 5, 2009
Yes, we call it the Golden State because the sun is always shining
Except in the summer, of course, when tourists are flabbergasted to find it’s not. Locals know that when it's hot in San Francisco, it's hotter in the central valley. So after a glorious day in San Francisco, that pent-up heat in the valley rises, creating a vacuum...and you know how Mother Nature abhors a vacuum. Hold onto your hat. Here comes the cold air rushing in from the ocean to fill it up.
Copa del oro (cup of gold)
That's what Spanish settlers called the golden California poppy(eschscholzia californica),citing a legend that its petals turned to the gold which filled the soil. Natives prized it for food and oil extract. Now our State flower, it's also the logo of California Collectors' Series. To understand why we like it, fly from Yosemite over a hillside of poppies some day. Watch as everybody on the plane huddles at the windows while the pilot makes a circle around to gawk. Sailing up the Pacific Coast in the 18th century from the south, the Spanish would have seen enormous fields of these native wildflowers. German botanist Adelbert Von Chamisso, who named them in 1816, was also a poet. Imagine his wonder at seeing hillsides of orange.
And, finally, there's the Gold Rush-- golden for some, slim pickings for others....
In 1848 there were roughly 400 people in this town we now call San Francisco, half of them Mormons who had come around the Horn to escape persecution and settle in a new territory.In 1849 after their leader -- that enterprising entrepreneur Sam Brannan -- marched through the streets shouting that gold had been found on the American River, the rush began! More than 600 ships from all over the world arrived. And many never went home. Crews jumped ship and immediately headed for the hills, stopping, of course, at Sam's hardware store to buy their shovels.When they returned, some were rich but more were poor. And suddenly the population of the town had jumped to 40,000! Historian Charles Fracchia describes it best. San Francisco was an “Instant City.”
From the Ernest Clayton Collection of California Wildflowers
Image courtesy of the