01 november 2009

Todys flower - Papaver


Todays flower nr 64

Poppy family (Papaveraceae).

Its 120-odd species include the opium poppy and corn poppy. These are annual, biennial and perennial hardy, frost-tolerant plants growing natively in the temperate climates of Eurasia, Africa and North America (Canada, Alaska, Rocky Mountains)

Papaver grows in disturbed soil. Its seeds may lie dormant for years until the soil is disturbed. Then they bloom in great numbers under cool growing conditions.
The flower buds are nodding or bent downwards, turning upwards as they are opening.
The stigmas are visible on top of the capsule, and the number of stigmas corresponds to the number of fused carpels.

Poppies have a long history. They were already grown as ornamental plants since 5,000 BC in Mesopotamia. They were found in Egyptian tombs. In Greek mythology, the poppy was associated with Demeter, goddess of fertility and agriculture. People believed they would get a bountiful crop if poppies grew in their field, hence the name 'corn poppy'. In this case, the name 'corn' was derived from 'korn', the Greek word for 'grain'.
They are also sold as cut flowers in flower arrangements, especially the Iceland Poppy. They deserve a prominent place in any garden, border, or in meadow plantings. They are probably one of the most popular wildflowers.

In the course of history, poppies have always been attributed important medicinal properties. The alkaloid rhoeadine is derived from the flowers of the Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas). This is used as mild sedative. The stems contain a latex or milky sap. This may cause skin irritation, and the milky sap present in the Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum) contains several narcotic alkaloids including morphine and codeine