Papaver somniferum

 In Blog, Wild Flower of the Week

The opium poppy Papaver somniferum is a distinctive annual, with grey green heart-shaped leaves. The colourful flowers vary from often white to mauve, but garden selections may be in shades of red, pink or purple. Double forms are available.  The seed head enlarges after flowering and can make a decorative feature in a flower arrangement.  This is the part from which sap is extracted to make heroin (illegally) but also a series of important pain relieving drugs including morphine. Common pain killers such as Co-codamol contain a mix of opium and paracetamol.

Papaver somniferum

The plant seems to be of Mediterranean origin but has long been established here. It readily seeds around and often appears on disturbed ground including gardens where it was not intentionally sown. It is perfectly legal to grow this species in gardens in the large numbers are required to produce drugs.  It is grown under license on undisclosed farms for the pharmaceutical industry. The seeds are often used to decorate buns and cakes.

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