New Creations in Plant Life (1905)
William S. Harwood

California Poppy pp. 81-83

As one studies more into this line of his experimentation, the wonder grows steadily, the possibilities of what he may yet accomplish in this one branch seem limitless; for, aside from the production of the strange forms which appear in the foliage of the new poppies, and the development of the great poppy itself which stands apart among flowers, he has done what might well be called the impossible: he has changed the native California poppy from gold to crimson. Many acts has this man done which savor of the miraculous, none more marvelous than this. Once, when he was looking over a field of these gorgeous flowers that cover the California hills and roadsides in the early summer as with a splendid mantle of gold, he discovered one blossom which bore a faint trace of crimson, a slender line along down its yellow satin chalice. It was a strange stain of Nature. She had done her work well to place this odd note of color where it would fall under the eye of the man who has scrutinized her as others have never done. Instantly he isolated the plant, transplanted it, watched it with jealous care. Its seeds were saved and planted. Some of the flowers which came upon the plants from these seeds showed a similar line of red slightly widened. Again the crop of seeds from these new plants, now much more numerous, was planted, and a far larger harvest of blossoms was produced. Some of them were true to their ancestral forms of life and nodded their pure yellow heads in saucy defiance. They paid sadly for their temerity, for all of them were rejected. Others had still more pronounced hints of the crimson, and these were selected for further planting. So on and on the test went for years, each successive generation showing stronger tendencies toward the end desired, as the petals grew more and more crimson. At last the end was reached, the yellow poppy had become a deep lustrous red; it was hard by the land of miracles.

From certain quarters, so curious the inconsistency of man, came up more or less violent protests against this act,—the golden poppy, was it not the adopted flower of the state of gold? And here was this worker of miracles changing it to crimson and robbing the state of its most distinctive and characteristic adornment! But Mr. Burbank met the protest with a gentle smile, and the poppies go on their gorgeous way embossing the California hillsides, gold upon green in high relief, like the ornaments of some mighty shield, while the crimson poppy which has been so gently stolen from their midst is returned to the world again for the adornment of the gardens of many lands.

Many other striking varieties are developing in the midst of all the crossings thus secured, exhibiting all manner of combinations of crimson and gold.