Sunday, June 4, 2017

Poppies, poppies....

Poppies, so many poppies. We could call the Full Moon of June the Poppy Moon.

One of Shirley's many colors.
I so love these showy, brilliantly colored and varied flowers. The poppies shown above, playing nicely with the Echinacea pallida, are probably Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoeas). It's been so long since I planted the original seed that I have no idea which poppy breed they are, except that these look like Internet photos of Shirley poppies. But I also found other photos of "Shirleys" online that look different. They may simply be "double" cultivars. Double indicates extra rows of petals. Both the red and the pink are the same variety, as their colors vary greatly.

These are easy to grow and hardy annuals that must be planted each year.

Another Shirley, aka "corn poppy"
I collect the bulbous poppy seedheads when they turn brown, and shake out the seeds once they're fully dry (or, more likely, I'll just let them sit in a plastic container or a paper bag and the seeds mostly fall out on their own). In early spring, or even late fall I'll scatter the seeds...
Except, I don't always. Many times late fall and early spring pass by and the seeds are still sitting in their containers... which is what happened this year.

Fortunately these poppies self-sow rampantly. Their vivid blooms scattered among other blooms and greenery make a wild and lovely show.

The most famous -- or infamous -- species of poppy is Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy, which is the same species of poppy used to produce the seeds on your poppyseed bun. Opium production requires making an incision in the seed head, which then secretes a milky sap. The sap is left to dry until the next day, when it is scraped off. Production of opium seems like a very labor- and time-intensive activity. More effort than I'd want to go to. It's much easier just to shake the tiny black seeds from the pods and use them in baking. Tastier, too. And less likely to get you in trouble with the law.

Seeds for these lovelies were given to me by a friend. As far as
I can tell, they are Hungarian pepperbox, which is a cultivar of
the breadseed poppy, Papaver somniferum.
Some countries outright outlaw this poppy species and its extracts. Some require a license to grow them for legal medicines. Others have no laws ruling growing of these poppies, as far as I can tell. The U.S. allows these poppies to be grown for seed and ornamental purposes, but it is illegal to produce opium from them (naturally). At least that's how precedence stands. You can easily find seed for bread seed poppies and grow your own for baked goods, or just for their beauty.

It was probably a field of P. somniferum that Dorothy found herself walking through on her way to see the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The fumes from the poppies put Dorothy, Toto and the Cowardly Lion to sleep. Of course, the Scarecrow and Tin Man, not having to breathe, were unaffected. Their method of escape from the deadly field of poppies differs between the book and the movie. However, it's doubtful that one will be affected by the narcotic effects of poppies just by walking through a field of them.

The opium poppy, as many powerful medicine plants, features in the myths of the Mediterranean region, their native stomping grounds. The most commonly known myth (at least to me) is that the Greek Goddess of the Fields, Demeter, created the opium poppy when her daughter Persephone went to live in the Underworld. The poppy helped her sleep. It also became the symbol of Hypnos, the God of Sleep, and his brother Thanatos, the God of Death (eternal sleep). The son of Hypnos, Morpheus, God of Dreams, also claimed the opium poppy for his symbol and the word "morphine" was derived from his name.

The Shirley poppy was earlier known as the corn poppy, as it grew in the grain fields, and also was sacred to Demeter. Another epithet for this species is "Flanders poppy," and it now symbolizes remembrance of those whose lives were lost in war.

Other poppy species also exist, including a few perennial and biennial species. There is the California poppy, and this lovely orange, but unknown-to-me species (at right). It came in a bag of seed for "bee flowers." I think some California poppies might have been in that bag, too, but I see none blooming now.

And finally, I have this lovely horned poppy, also known as sea poppy (Glaucium flavum) because of its love for the seaside. I gathered seed for this plant from one growing in the xeriscape demonstration garden at the Extension office. This species also produces bright yellow flowers, as well as these lovely orange ones. Xeriscape is a term for low moisture gardening. So it should work well in arid conditions, as its blue green foliage suggests. It is native to Europe, but seems to do well here. Apparently this is a short-lived perennial, so I must gather seed from this three-year-old plant if I want to be sure of enjoying its blooms year after year. The seedpods are long and pointed, unlike the bulbous pods of other poppy species, which gave it the name "horned" poppy.

Enjoy Poppy Moon, you all.

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