Californians love their state flower. It’s no wonder we’re so proud of them when they create a golden landscape spread across hills and valleys in areas like Antelope Valley, Diamond Lake, and Lake Elsinore. Many residents are so enamored with our state flower that they don’t even question it when someone tells them that picking these flowers is against the law. But the truth is, it is legal to pick California poppies (sometimes called golden poppies or their scientific name is Eschscholzia) – depending on the circumstances. Here’s what aspiring poppy collectors should know.
Is California poppy picking legal?
Yes. Contrary to the claims of many lawyers, picking golden poppies is perfectly legal – as long as the poppy is yours to pick. Get a bunch of golden poppies to grow in your garden, and you can harvest all the flowers you want.
Why do people think it’s illegal to pick poppies in California?
The basis for this myth comes from California Penal Code 384a (PC), which states that it is illegal to cut, destroy, mutilate, or remove plant material on public property or another person’s property without their permission. This law makes sense because it prohibits picking, vandalizing, or damaging plants that do not belong to you unless the owner gives you permission to do so.
Under Section 384a (PC), it does not matter if the plants are golden poppies, roses, pines, or even an entire forest of weeds. However, there is no poppy law in California. In fact, the same law that protects poppies in California also prohibits damaging tree branches when taking fruit from a tree that doesn’t belong to you.
What is the penalty for illegally picking poppies in California?
If you are caught picking California poppies in a federal or state park or other public area, you may face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. You may face the same penalties for taking poppies from someone else’s property without permission, but you are just as likely to Pathetic thief And Trespassing fees.
Is it illegal to step on poppies in California?
Yes, but again, it is legal to do this in your own garden or with the consent of your property owner. If you step on or sit on California poppies or other plants on a state or federal nature preserve, in a public place, or even someone else’s property without consent, you are selfishly killing the flowers and ruining everyone else’s experience. Furthermore, you are also in violation of Section 384A (PC), which is punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Should you choose California poppies?
Unfortunately, many people like to pick these poppies in state parks to remember their travels, but the flowers are not great souvenirs because their petals fall off almost immediately. Beyond that, the light-sensitive flowers close after dark, and will not open again once picked. Taking a photo of plants is a much better way to remember your day.
If you have plants in your backyard, you can harvest them for seeds to enjoy the beautiful blooms again for years to come.
If you end up facing charges for illegally picking California poppies or have any other questions about plants that are illegal to pick, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney. Contact attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050.