Papaver L.

(excl. Meconopsis, Roemeria)

In its traditional circumscription Papaver is a genus of ca. 80 species (Mabberley 2008). Most are native to Europe, the Mediterranean area, Asia and western North America. Three species are accepted as native in Belgium (Lambinon & Verloove 2012) but they are, in fact, archaeophytes. Delimitation on morphological grounds of taxa of Papaver, Meconopsis and Roemeria is straightforward based on the distinction of capsule characteristics. However, molecular phylogenetic analyses (Kadereit and Sytsma, 1992; Kadereit et al., 1997, Carolan & al. 2006) demonstrated that Papaver is only monophyletic if Roemeria, Stylomecon heterophylla G. Taylor and Meconopsis cambrica are included in this genus. Moreover, some of the morphological characters that separate Papaver sect. Argemonidium (with P. argemone and P. hybridum) from the remainder of Papaver are shared with Roemeria. In fact, section Argemonidium is more closely related to Roemeria than it is to Papaver. Roemeria has previously been included in Papaver on morphological grounds (Günther 1975). Other authors tend to transfer species of Papaver sect. Argemonidium to Roemeria (Morales Torres & al. 1988, Kadereit & al. 2011). It is clear that the generic boundaries of Papaver are still insufficiently understood. Pending additional studies the genus is here accepted in a conservative way, relying exclusively on morphological features.

Numerous species of Papaver are cultivated as ornamentals. Useful and comprehensive accounts for Europe are provided by Cullen (1995e) and Jäger & al. (2008).

Non-native variants or closely related taxa of native species of Papaver might have been overlooked. White-flowered forms of Papaver dubium are sometimes encountered in road verges, possibly as a result of sowing. The exact identity of such plants requires further study but they possibly belong to Papaver dubium subsp. lecoqii var. albiflorum Besser (see Kubát 1980, Mowat & Kadereit 1993).

1       Annual, rosette leaves withered at anthesis === 2

         Biennial or perennial, with basal rosette at anthesis === 7

2       Leaves strongly glaucous, the upper more or less clasping stem. Petals most often mauve or white. Capsule (20-) 40-90 mm long. Filaments clavate === Papaver somniferum

         Leaves green or greyish green, not clasping stem. Petals normally reddish. Capsule at most 20 mm long. Filaments filiform or clavate === 3

3       Capsule glabrous. Filaments filiform, not broadened at apex === 4

         Capsule with stiff, patent hairs (at least in upper half). Filaments clavate at apex === 6

4       Capsule ca. twice as long as wide, oblong. Stigmatic disk narrower to as broad as capsule. Petals usually orange-red, without black spots (native) === P. dubium

         Capsule ca. as long as wide, subglobose.  Stigmatic disk as broad as to usually broader as capsule. Petals darker, usually brick red to dark red, often with basal dark spots === 5

5       Pedicel with densely appressed short setae (mostly 0,4-1,4 mm long). Petals dark red, usually with basal black spot. Capsule often stipitate. Upper leaves with size of the lobes decreasing gradually towards apex === P. commutatum

         Pedicel with patent hairs or, less frequently (f. strigosum), with more or less appressed longer hairs (mostly 1,2-3 mm long). Petals brick red to crimson, with or without basal black spot. Capsule sessile. Upper leaves with basal lobes much bigger than, if present, other lobes (native) === P. rhoeas

6       Capsule ca. as long as wide, subglobose === P. hybridum

         Capsule ca. twice as long as wide, oblong (native) === P. argemone

7       Leaves all basal. Stem unbranched. Petals variable: yellow, orange, reddish or (rarely) white === P. nudicaule

         Stem leafy. Stem usually branched. Petals orange to deep orange-red === 8

8       Petals 25-35 mm, orange. Anthers yellow. Stigmatic disk with 5-8 rays === P. atlanticum

         Petals 60-90 mm, reddish. Anthers violet. Stigmatic disk with 10-16 rays === P. setiferum


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Carolan J.C., Hook I.L.I., Chase M.W., Kadereit J.W. & Hodkinson T.R. (2006) Phylogenetics of Papaver and Related Genera Based on DNA Sequences from ITS Nuclear Ribosomal DNA and Plastid trnL Intron and trnL–F Intergenic Spacers. Annals of Botany 98(1): 141-155.

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Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith