A poppy is a flowering plant in the subfamily Papaveroideae of the family Papaveraceae. Poppies are herbaceous plants, often grown for their colorful flowers. One species of poppy, Papaver somniferum, is the source of the crude drug opium which contains powerful medicinal alkaloids such as morphine and has been used since ancient times as an analgesic and narcotic medicinal and recreational drugs. It also produces edible seeds. Following the trench warfare which took place in the poppy fields of Flanders during World War I, poppies have become a symbol of remembrance of soldiers who have died during wartime.
Poppies are herbaceous annual, biennial or short-lived perennial plants. Some species are monocarpic, dying after flowering. Poppies can be over 4 feet tall with flowers up to six inches across. Flowers of species (not cultivars) have 4 to 6 petals, many stamens forming a conspicuous whorl in the center of the flower and an ovary of from 2 to many fused carpels. The petals are showy, may be of almost any color in the and some have markings. The petals are crumpled in the bud and as blooming finishes, the petals often lie flat before falling away. In the temperate zones, poppies bloom from spring into early summer. Most species secrete latex when injured. Bees use poppies as a pollen source. The pollen of the oriental poppy, Papaver orientale, is dark blue, that of the field or corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is grey to dark green. The opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, grows wild in eastern and southern Asia, and South Eastern Europe. It is believed that it originated in the Mediterranean region.
- Papaver – Papaver rhoeas, Papaver somniferum, Papaver orientale, Papaver nudicaule
- Eschscholzia – Eschscholzia californica
- Meconopsis – Meconopsis cambrica, Meconopsis napaulensis
- Stylophorum – celandine poppy
- Argemone – prickly poppy
- Romneya – matilija poppy and relatives
- Canbya – pygmy poppy
- Stylomecon – wind poppy
- Arctomecon – desert bearpaw poppy
- Hunnemannia – tulip poppy
- Dendromecon – tree poppy
The flowers of most poppy species are attractive and are widely cultivated as annual or perennial ornamental plants. This has resulted in a number of commercially important cultivars, such as the Shirley poppy, a cultivar of Papaver rhoeas and semi-double or double (flore plena) forms of the opium poppy Papaver somniferum and oriental poppy (Papaver orientale). Poppies of several other genera are also cultivated in gardens. A few species have other uses, principally as sources of drugs and foods. The opium poppy is widely cultivated and its worldwide production is monitored by international agencies. It is used for production of dried latex and opium, the principal precursor of narcotic and analgesic opiates such as morphine, heroin and codeine. Poppy seeds are rich in oil, carbohydrates, calcium and protein. Poppy oil is often used as cooking oil, salad dressing oil, or in products such as margarine. Poppy oil can also be added to spices for cakes, or breads. Poppy products are also used in different paints, varnishes, and some cosmetics.
Poppies have long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death: Sleep because the opium extracted from them is a sedative, and death because of the common blood-red color of the red poppy in particular. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead. Poppies used as emblems on tombstones symbolize eternal sleep. This symbolism was evoked in the children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which a magical poppy field threatened to make the protagonists sleep forever.
A second interpretation of poppies in Classical mythology is that the bright scarlet color signifies a promise of resurrection after death.
The poppy of wartime remembrance is Papaver rhoeas, the red-flowered corn poppy. This poppy is a common weed in Europe and is found in many locations, including Flanders, which is the setting of the famous poem "In Flanders Fields" by the Canadian surgeon and soldier John McCrae. In Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, artificial poppies (plastic in Canada, paper in the UK, Australia, South Africa, Malta and New Zealand) are worn to commemorate those who died in war. This form of commemoration is associated with Remembrance Day, which falls on November 11. In Canada, Australia and the UK, poppies are often worn from the beginning of November through to the 11th, or Remembrance Sunday if that falls on a later date. In New Zealand and Australia, soldiers are commemorated on ANZAC day (April 25), although the poppy is still commonly worn around Remembrance Day. Wearing of poppies has been a custom since 1924 in the United States. Miss Moina Michael of Georgia is credited as the founder of the Memorial Poppy in the United States.
Ancient Egyptian doctors would have their patients eat seeds from a poppy to relieve pain. Poppy seeds contain small quantities of both morphine and codeine, which are pain-relieving drugs that are still used today. Poppy seeds and fixed oils can also be nonnarcotic because when they are harvested about twenty days after the flower has opened, the morphine is no longer present.
The California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, is the state flower of California.
Artificial poppies (called "Buddy Poppies") are used in the veterans' aid campaign by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which provides money to the veterans who assemble the poppies and various aid programs to veterans and their families.
- Opium poppy with seed head
- Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum)
- Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) seeds
- California poppy seeds
- Red poppy flower
- Field poppies, by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, c. 1912
- Kutia, a sweet grain pudding traditionally served in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia
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- In Flanders Fields
- Papaver rhoeas
- Poppy goddess
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
- White poppy (symbol)
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