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Plant Profile: Opium Poppy (Papaver somiferum)

Papaver_somniferumA native of Greece and western Asia, the oium poppy is the oldest poppy in cultivation. dating back to ancient Sumerian times, 4000 BC. The ancient Minoans, 2000-1450 BC made opium from the sap of its seed capsules. Today, it is grown as an ornamental, a source of opium and poppy seeds used in cooking. Although the flowers drop their petals quickly when cut, the seed capsules are very attractive and used by florists.

The flowers emerge from nodding buds and are borne singly on tall unbranched stems. The species is scarlet but breeding has created white, pink, and purple cultivars. The flowers can be one of two forms: Papaver somniferum pods n flowerscarnation-flowered with fringed petals, or peony-flowered that looking like double peonies. In both forms the leaves are gray- or blue-green and clasp the stem. The plants self seed readily.

Type: Annual

Bloom: Large white, pink, red, or purple flowers emerge from nodding buds in spring and are borne singly on tall stems.

Size: 2-3’ H x 2’

Light: Full sun

Soil: Fertile, moderately moist, well-drained

Hardiness: NA/ Annual

Care: Staking may be necessary.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed.

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