Dressed in summer whites and not the least bit concerned about wrinkles, these Matilija Poppies were recently seen showing off in Seattle.

The towering plants with flowers that can measure 5 inches across are a new discovery for me.  I was really taken with the bold drama of clumps of big white poppies floating effortlessly against a cerulean sky in the bright sunlight.

I was in the UW (University of Washington) neighborhood of Seattle that day to see a client.  My work takes me all around the Seattle area and that afternoon I was in rather desperate need of a bathroom. I remembered the University’s Center for Urban Horticulture, with its gardens and the clean, cool, inviting library that’s open to the public. I drove over, parked, and was pleasantly startled by these gorgeous creatures as I walked to the building.

These big poppies, properly called Romneya coulteri,  are sometimes called tree poppies, or fried egg flowers – you can see why. It looks like I was just in time to catch their annual show; the pollen was beginning to settle into the petals.

I learned that the Matilija Poppy is native to dry canyons and burned over areas of California & Mexico and is difficult to establish. But once they’re growing, apparently you’ve got them.

The Center for Urban Horticulture website says the plant “highly resents transplanting.”

You can just imagine one looking down at you, haughtily waving its paper-white petals, saying, “Go away and leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m perfectly happy here?

(If you’ve ever done an unsuccessful transplant, you know how important it is to try to match your environment to the plant’s native habitat).

Given its native habitat, you can imagine this plant deals well with drought.

And you might wonder what it’s doing here in Seattle!

Actually, we’re dry all summer long – very dry. We have lots of sun, daytime temps in the 70’s and nights in the 50’s, and no humidity. Yes, I’m bragging. I have a right to with the gray skies I put up with all winter!

So I’d say the flowers are in a simpatico location during the summer bloom time.  I noticed they were planted in a raised bed, which should allow good winter drainage. Back east I imagine it would be hard to establish them because conditions (both soil and air) aren’t usually dry for very long.  That’s probably why it was a new plant to me.

Next time your summer whites

(be they cotton or linen) are

hopelessly wrinkled, 

remember the pretty Matilija poppies,

breathe a sigh

of contentment,

and carry on.

(Note: I didn’t have my camera with me the day I discovered the poppies on the way to the rest room, so I took photos with my phone.  On the weekend I returned with my DSLR for more pictures.  If you’re curious, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and last two pictures were taken with the DSLR).


  1. Beautiful flowers, and beautiful pictures… a pleasure to behold. I don’t believe I’ve seen any around here. Was a pleasure, learning a bit about them.


  2. They look a bit like the ‘California’ white poppy which grows in the Botanic Gardens near my home. I wonder if they are the same thing? It’s a fairly raised dry bed in full sun in the Gardens here. Very pretty but very, very hard to photograph as their thin papery petals move around in the slightest breeze.


    • I bet it’s the same one – certainly if they’re really big. I know what you mean about thin petals and wind – I had two things on my side: the phone camera has a really fast shutter, and we don’t have much wind here. I think Seattle is the “un-windy” city to Chicago’s “Windy City.” We’re between two mountain ranges so it’s often quite still. The good side: no blasting winds, and once a gorgeous weather pattern arrives, it lingers on forever. Bad side: once a lousy weather pattern arrives, it lingers, too!


  3. White flowers and white bed sheets, there is something about white. So clean, so inviting. Love the angle with the beautiful blue contrasting sky. Ahhh, UW. What a pretty place it is! 🙂


    • Yes, something about clean whites – but different connotations in winter & summer, don’t you think? We’ve had deep, clear blue skies for at least a month now, with clouds only on some mornings. I guess you could do comparative reviews of several scenic university campuses, yes?


      • Funny you should say Seattle has been severe clear this month because here in Alabama it has rained almost every single day in July and if it isn’t raining, it’s grey. LIke we have switched weather patterns. Honestly though I am liking this unusual weather because it hasn’t been so sunny and thus so horribly hot. Ah yes, done my share of scenic university campuses. Really did like UW, but oh, Meg is going to graduate with no loans so U of Alabama’s Honor’s College is a good thing. And, AND UA actually has a very lovely campus. It’s all good and I am very excited for her. Again, loved your photos and I really do love white, winter and summer! 🙂


  4. A beautiful collection. I don’t know this particular poppy. I love the pristine white of the petals, and the tones are so delicately controlled I can feel their texture.


    • Thanks Louis – I bet they would be unhappy in England. I think the fact that we have such a prolonged dry period here in the summer makes it doable in the Pacific northwest, even with all the moisture we have all winter. Maybe something about the soil, too – I don’t know.


  5. Great photos! Takes me back to my Summer days at my grandmother’s. She had a crop of these poppies which used to ‘tower’ over me. When I found them again in later years they weren’t quite as towering but they were still very impressive. Thanks for rekindling the memory.


  6. Wow – that’s beautiful flowers and photos! I am especially fond of the last one that seems to add some silk to the paper, cotton and linen texture. Also the series brings back a dear memory of a gorgious field of orange, yellow and white poppies… Thanks for sharing!


    • Thanks so much for commenting. I’m glad you liked the black and white – sometimes they don’t stand out well when they’re in the same post as color shots. I played with that one in Lightroom, and reducing the Clarity is what softened it. I’ve never seen such a field of poppies – sounds glorious.


  7. These are stunning Lynn. I love white flowers, but against that blue sky – wow! They do look like fried eggs. I’m also reminded of Marilyn Monroe’s skirt picture. 🙂


  8. Pingback: Poppy talk | galeriaredelius

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