The scientific name of the common poppy, field poppy or simply poppy, is Papaver rhoeas L.. It is a plant native to Turkey, which has spread throughout Europe, especially in Italy. It belongs to the Papaveraceae family, annual plants that reproduce only by seed. Poppies grow spontaneously in vast fields that host certain types of crops, such as the typical cereals of the autumn and winter seasons like wheat, rye, oats, barley, and spelt.
But now let’s see everything about the poppy, from its cultivation to its characteristics.
The Wild Poppy
One of the peculiarities of the field poppy is the resistance of its seeds, which can survive in the soil for over 8 years. After germination (a phase that for poppy seeds is of medium to long duration), the plants start to grow and expand depending on the space they have around them. In a field of cereals, the plant has less chance to develop, so it can produce a maximum of 5000 specimens. If it’s positioned in open ground, however, it can more than double its expansion. The poppy is now considered a weed as it can be found almost anywhere. It usually grows spontaneously on hills, mountains, by the sea, and even along roads. Over the years, this plant species has become increasingly resistant, both to the climate and to dangerous chemicals like herbicides. The natural control technique we recommend is mulching, with either straw or jute.
Characteristics of the Poppy
The field poppy is easy to recognize, thanks to its bright red petals and tall stem, covered with rather thick fuzz, and soft, toothed leaves. The poppy flower also produces fruits. These are located exactly at the center of the corolla, gathered in a sort of roundish bulb containing tiny black seeds. The petals can reach a maximum length of about 7 cm, while the stem can even exceed 80 cm. The blooming of the poppy occurs during the summer months, between June and July, and sometimes can last until late September.
In the world, there are numerous varieties of poppy plants. Some of these varieties are hybrids, and it is precisely because of this characteristic that reproduction is quite simple. In addition to the common field poppy, which is Papaver rhoeas L., you can also find the Papaver somniferum around. The latter is known as the opium poppy, and from this variety, the narcotic substance is extracted. There is also the Papaver alpinum, a subspecies found in the Alps. The origin of this species is linked to plants that existed in the Ice Age and it has a corolla of white or yellow color.
The Papaver rupifragum is another very delicate species and produces a single large orange flower. Finally, there is the Papaver atlanticus, very common in Sweden and Norway. Its flower can be yellow, brick red, and rarely, light pink.
Poppy Cultivation: Methods and Tips
Being a spontaneous and hardy plant, poppy cultivation is not at all difficult. However, it is important to follow certain rules to ensure that the plant grows healthy and vigorous. First of all, it is necessary to determine the place where to plant the seeds. The ideal space is a large garden, however, you can sow them almost anywhere: road edges, sidewalks, walls. The important thing is that there is, of course, soil, that the plant is exposed to the sun, and the area is well-ventilated.
You can also try container cultivation, although this choice is not recommended. The plant, in fact, needs a lot of space to efficiently develop its roots. So choose a not too shaded place and make sure to plant the seeds at least 15-20 cm apart.
The ideal period for sowing is between early spring and early summer, from May to June. Before performing this phase, it is important to prepare the soil properly by loosening it. After sowing the poppies, it is necessary to water immediately and wait for germination. The frequency of irrigation is about once every 3 days. Like any other plant, poppies also need daily care. Two of the tasks that need to be done often are removing dry flowers and leaves and pruning small lateral branches. Poppies should be transplanted in late summer. For this reason, if you have decided to sow them in pots, the ideal solution is to transplant them at the end of September.
Fascinating Facts about the Poppy Plant
In ancient times, with the Papaver somniferum, a mixture was prepared and given to children to help them fall asleep. It was a traditional preparation, exploiting the plant’s medicinal properties.
Uses of the Poppy
Today, poppies are often used in cooking as well. With its seeds, you can prepare tasty recipes, the important thing is to use a variety without narcotic effects. In general, the petals of the field poppy are used to decorate salads and make infusions. The small seeds, on the other hand, are mixed with certain types of flours to make bread and cakes. Moreover, they go well with meat and cheese fillings, and even with yogurt and smoothies. The caloric intake of poppy seeds is quite high, but their consumption is healthy due to the presence of abundant Omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.