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Papaver somniferum in profile

Papaveraceae
B and T World Seeds' reference: 13933

Papaver somniferum, Papaveraceae.

Common Names:
Adormidero, Adormidera, Hashas, Kheshkhash Abu Al Noum, O Fang, O Fu Jung, O P'Ien, Opium, Opium Poppy, Tengkoh, White Poppy, Ya P'Ien, Yu Mi, Pavot Somnifère, Mawseed, Florists Poppy, Herb of Joy, Mohn, Klapper-Rosen, Mago, Magesamen, White Poppy. . .

Flower:
WHITE to PURPLE,single &double

Fruit:
capsule to 7x5cm.

Foliage:
to 12cm.

Height:
to 1.2m.


Form:
annual

Uses:
Culinary, Economic, Medicinal, Psychotropic.
(More info, History and Mythology)

Minimum Temperature:
USDA zone: 7 (-17,50 to -12,50 Centigrade)
Cultivation:
Papaver somniferum can be treated as a hardy annual and are best sown broadcast, unless you are producing seeds or seed pods for the dried flower market. The commercial sowing rate used to be 1lb per acre (1 kilogram per hectare); rows 1 foot apart, thinning the rows to 1 plant every 6 to 9 inches. (about 50,000 to 100,000 plants in an acre).

If you are sowing for decoration you can sow successive batches from the time that the soil has warmed up to 7°C (45°F) in the spring, up to midsummer - giving yourself a summer long display. Papaver somniferum can be sown in the early autumn, in regions of USDA zone 7 or warmer the small plants will overwinter and flower in late spring and early summer the next year.

Dig over the area you want to grow poppies on, rake and firm. Sprinkle the seeds thinly and evenly on the surface and lightly rake them in. Water with a sprinkler, a gentle spray or a watering can with a fine rose.

Sorry I don't have any idea about the alkaloid content of our different poppies, I did a quick internet search and came up with the following experiment which indicates that nurture is more important, for alkaloid content, than nature - this has also been found to be the case with other medicinal plants.

Here is an abstract from scientific studies of the morphine content of 2 varieties of Papaver somniferum - it was concluded that growing conditions and the delay before harvesting were more important than the variety grown.
Seeds of Papaver somniferum tend to follow the shade of the flower - white seeds come from pale coloured flowers, dark seeds from dark coloured flowers. This could suggest that larger podded varieties are preferable. Hen and Chicks do have more surface area to their pods, and are likely to be left standing longer as they are decorative.

(Or it could be deliberately misleading disinformation - I have seen extraction from "Poppy Straw" mentioned, so maybe there are high quantities of alkaloids in the dried seed-pods. Mrs Grieve describes various cultivation and harvesting techniques. And says that the whitest seeded varieties were preferred when Papaver somniferum was cultivated medicinally for the capsules in the UK.
In hotter climates it is likely that greater alkaloid content is contained in the latex, European production was not considered cost effective and the British Pharmacopoeia directs that medicinal opium must come from Asia Minor)

Experiment to determine the better plant spacing and harvest time after flowering
Two varieties of opium poppy were grown under irrigation for one season and their capsules analysed for morphine content by gas chromatography. Harvest of the capsules at 29-33 days after flowering (mature seed) gave 6.70 kg/ha morphine as compared to 5.36 kg/ha morphine in capsules harvested at 4-6 days after flowering. With constant row spacing (30 cm between double rows on ridges 102 cm apart), a plant spacing of 6 cm gave 20 per cent more morphine than either 12- or 18-cm spacing. There was no statistical difference in morphine content between a blue- and a white-seeded variety.


Seed count roughly 5000 seeds in 1 Gram.

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Papaver somniferum is included in the following

B & T World Seeds' sub-lists:

9: Alpine and Rock Garden Seed List (Hardy and Tender)
19: "Everlasting" and Dried Flower Seeds, Australian and Other
36: Herb Seed List - Culinary, Medicinal, Dye, and Aromatic
44: Cut-flowers, Commercial and other Recommended Varieties
74: West Asian Natives and Introductions
78: South Eastern European Natives and Introductions
90: Seeds of Cereals, Legumes, - Food and Oilseed Plants
543: Papaveraceae catalogue

eMail Matt Sleigh at B and T World Seeds

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B & T World Seeds, Paguignan, 34210 Aigues-Vives, France