Poppy seed: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about the poppy plant

Papaver somniferum is a member of the Papaveraceae family. This plant has many subspecies or varieties and cultivars. It can be an annual or biennial herb; can range in height from 20 to 60 inches; and be glabrous (smooth) or glaucous (covered with a waxy coating), sometimes with a few spreading bristles. Its stems are slightly branched, with numerous large erect leaves. These leaves can be ovate to oblong in shape; edges can be serrate to dentate-serrate. The leaves are clasping at base, glaucous, with the lower ones pinnatifid (arranged almost feather-like on opposite sides of a common axis). Flowers in variety of hue bloom on long peduncles with nodding buds that expand into erect flowers with 4-8 petals. Colors can be white to purplish, but also pink, blue, violet, or rather more familiarly red.

The poppy's fruit a capsule, ovoid to globose (spherical) in shape, glabrous, 4–6 cm long, 3.5–4 cm in diameter, with 8–12 rayed sessile stigmas. Its seeds oily, ranging in color from white, to dark gray, to black, or even bluish. The plant is in flower in the summer months from July to August.

As mentioned, the colors of the flower can vary widely, as do other physical characteristics, such as number and shape of petals, number of flowers and fruits, seed color and number, the plant's production of opium, etc.

The Papaver somniferum Paeoniflorum group (which is sometimes called Papaver paeoniflorum) is a subtype of opium poppies are grown in many colors and whose flowers are highly double. P. somniferum Laciniatum group (which is sometimes called Papaver laciniatum) is a subtype of opium poppy whose flowers are not only highly double but deeply lobed and appear greatly ruffled, evoking a pompom.

common names & nomenclature
The Latin name of the poppy plant means the "sleep-bringing poppy". The flower's sap was later named opion by the ancient Greeks, which evolved to its modern name of opium.

Also known as:
poppy, opium poppy, common garden poppy

Poppy Seed, the sleeping flower of Flanders
Poppy seed: Where in the World
habitat and range for poppy

Papaver somniferum is native and cultivated in the Mediterranean region east to Iran; now cultivated in many tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate countries. Presently known to be cultivated for the opium in India, Iran, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, China, Manchuria, and Asia, and in other parts of Europe and India for the seeds. Cultivated in Japan and Australia as well.

Poppy seed: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting poppy

The poppy plant can be found growing in areas ranging from cool temperate wet steppe to subtropical dry to moist forest life zones. The plant does poorly in the humid tropics.

The poppy thrives in rich, well-manured soil.

Papaver somniferum is propagated from seed. These seeds are not as sensitive to temperature as most poppy species, but germinate best at 15°C. The seed is sown in shallow furrows. In some areas poppy seed mixed with sand is spread over tilled fields in early autumn. The fields are then weeded in the spring, usually at that time the poppy has reached a height of about 6 inches. The plants are then thinned to be about 2 feet apart.

They flower in April and May and their capsules are ripe in the summer months of June and July.

Harvest the poppy seeds once the seed pod itself has dried and the top has opened up.

Store dried poppy seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.