Record-breaking heat cooks, kills California poppy bloom

California Poppy Reserve in the Antelope Valley
Isabel Rodriguez of Palmdale finds a patch of poppies along Lancaster Road leading into the Poppy Reserve.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

A string of hot days and record-breaking heat have destroyed a large bloom of poppies at the California Poppy Reserve in the Antelope Valley.

What was the “densest poppy germination anyone’s seen in a decade” was cooked as the sun glared down on the Mojave Desert. The large bloom was reduced to a sprinkling of orange petals that shriveled on the stalk on the south slope of the natural reserve.

The north slopes, however, are angled away from the sun and covered with the best patches of wildflowers, including poppies, goldfields, forget-me-nots, gold cups, cream cups, owl’s clover and lupine.

“Wow, Mother Nature pulled the rug out from under us,” California State Park officials said. “We’re astonished to find that our big bloom of desert-adapted, ruggedly persistent poppies has been all but cooked away by the unseasonable heat we’ve had over the last week.”


The record-breaking heat began Friday when a high-pressure system built over the area and pushed temperatures up.

Forecasters reported 29 record highs and 22 record high minimum temperatures across Southern California.

Monday marked the fourth consecutive day when temperature reached at least 90 degrees in downtown Los Angeles. It was the first time that had happened in March since record-keeping began in 1877, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures reached 80 degrees on Sunday in the Mojave Desert.


“This is completely unexpected, as the early and regular rains this winter should have given the plants the deep-growing roots that would enable them to withstand a month of dry weather; however, heat waves are always a variable factor that can quickly alter any prediction,” state officials said.

At this rate, state officials said the poppies may remain in bloom only until mid-April.

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