Far Out Flora

California Poppy: Illegal to Pick?


Is it illegal to pick a California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) in California?  Well, let me start with what I think I know.  1) I am not a lawyer nor give legal advice.  2) Outer Sunset gets 30 days more fog than downtown SF.  3) In most cases, it is illegal to pick a CA Poppy.

ca poppy - eschscholzia californica

ca poppy - Eschscholzia californica

Here is the skinny I uncovered. Basically, you can’t pick any flower, tree, shrub, etc. on property that you don’t own….e.g. you don’t personal own State Hwys, State Parks, City Parks, you get the idea. The rule of thumb is, Don’t pick it unless it is in your own personal garden. Here is the Penal Code that explains it all, CA Penal Code § 384a, scroll about half way down the page.

I have to laugh when I see how wordy laws can be.  The first sentence of Penal Code 384a alone has 371 words in it.  I believe my second grade teacher would have classified it as a Run-On Sentence.

ca poppy - eschscholzia californicaca poppy - eschscholzia californica

ca poppy - Eschscholzia californica

Okay, so there are some exceptions in the code I found interesting such as okay to remove plants “if done for the purpose of protecting or maintaining an electric powerline, telephone line, or other property of a public utility“…or “… to persons engaged in logging operations, or in suppressing fires.

ca poppy - eschscholzia californica

ca poppy - Eschscholzia californica

BTW, Poppies don’t last after picked, and don’t like to be transplanted…so really no need to pick them.  I hope that clears it up.  I know I will sleep better tonight.

— Far Out Flora


  1. I always wondered! I discovered (accidentally, thanks to an unfortunate meeting of fat cat and brittle plant) that whole flowering (branches?) of Escholtzia will last for several days in water, but not the individual stems. The flowers even close up each night. Thanks for the research!

  2. You are a smart man to start off with: “1) I am not a lawyer nor give legal advice”. You may have saved yourself a big fat lawsuit by getting that out of the way right up front!

  3. Poppies are one of my favorites. We grew them and loved the color.

  4. Thanks for the penal code…it clears everything up (hahaha). A number of websites that came up on Google say it’s illegal to pick them up anywhere (including one’s garden!). There are also sites that say the plant is poisonous, which is misleading. Interesting fact: California Natives ate its leaves as a vegetable and other parts of the plants were used as a mild pain killer.

    But you’re right, why pick ’em up in the first place? Still, blog was very helpful information, thanks!

  5. Pingback: Ferry Ride to Wild Tiburon Flower Fun | Far Out Flora

  6. just what I needed! THANK’S

  7. In my experience California Poppies do very well in vases. I sew a lot of local wild flower seeds in part of my garden plot at work (you read that correctly, it is a pretty amazing perk where I work that I get a 10×20′ plot with water to grow tomatoes et al. at work in sunny Menlo Park! It is actually in my contract!)
    Poppies do really well in my plot and even when they spring up in my vegetable beds I let them be, while I rip out the other volunteers. I frequently cut flowers from my plot and bring them home and leave them in vases around at work, Ca Poppies regularly last about a week. Even cut they open in the morning, spread wide and make me happy, then roll up and go to sleep at night. There is a vase of them on my desk below my monitor as I type this.
    Legality be damned, don’t cut flowers that aren’t yours!

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