Poppy

Poppy, the common name for a family of plants. Most members of the family have brightly colored, often cuplike flowers borne singly on somewhat hairy stems. The broadpetaled blossoms may be white or a shade of red, violet, orange, or yellow. The leaves usually are hairy and deeply notched. Most of the plants exude a milky juice when they are cut.

The fruit is a pod containing many tiny seeds. The dried pod of the opium poppy is the source of poppy seeds, used in cooking for flavoring; the dried seeds yield an oil used in artists' paints. Juice of the unripe pod of the opium poppy is the source of opium, a narcotic drug.

The outstanding species native to North America is the California poppyCalifornia's state flowerwith yellow, orange, or cream-colored blossoms three to four inches (7.510 cm) across. The thistle poppy of the Southwest has white flowers and spiny-toothed leaves and stems. Similar is the prickly poppy, which is found naturalized in waste places in the eastern United States; it has yellow flowers.

Oriental Poppy.Oriental Poppy. The plant was introduced into the United States from the eastern Mediterranean.

Cultivated species, chiefly of European origin, include the oriental poppy, a large perennial with scarlet, black-centered flowers about five inches (13 cm) across; the perennial Iceland poppy, with small, sweet-scented flowers that may be yellow, orange, or pink; and the corn poppy, a small annual with red, purple, or white, black-centered flowers about two inches (5 cm) across. The corn poppy is mentioned in John McCrae's poem of World War I, In Flanders Fields. Veterans' organizations in the United States sell artificial corn poppies on Poppy Day to benefit hospitalized veterans.

The Iceland poppyThe Iceland poppy has small, sweet-scented flowers.

Poppies grow best in light soil. Most species bloom in early summer.

The opium poppy is Papaver somniferum; oriental, P. orientale; Iceland, P. nudicaule; corn, P. rhoeas; California, Eschscholtzia californica; thistle, Argemone hispida; prickly, A. mexicana. All belong to the poppy family, Papaveraceae.

Opium poppiesOpium poppies have oily seeds and showy flowers.