Romneya coulteri Matilija Poppy; Californian Tree Poppy

Family: Papaveraceae

Origin: California, Mexico

Although from south-western north America, since its discovery in 1833 this plant has a many-stranded connection with Ireland (see below).

This beautiful member of the poppy family has grey-green leaves which are pinnate (leaflets arranged on each side of a central stalk) and large, white solitary flowers which are scented and have 4-6 petals and many rich yellow stamens.

The plant can grow up to 2 m high, depending on the climate. It can spread widely by suckering, a habit which is much more noticeable in a hybrid between its two varieties, Romneya coulteri var. coulteri and R. coulteri var. trichocalyx. This hybrid is named 'White Cloud'.

It was not introduced to cultivation until 1875 and it first flowered, appropriately enough, in the Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin, in Dublin, in 1876.

The plant was discovered in 1833 by Dr Thomas Coulter of Newry (1793-1843), a botanist who collected in California and Mexico. The species name coulteri is in honour of Dr Coulter.

The name Romneya commemorates the celebrated Irish astronomer Dr Thomas Romney Robinson (1792-1882). The two men were, in fact, friends.

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