Papaver somniferum

Papaver somniferum L. (SW-As.) – A common but always ephemeral alien. Known at least since 1854. Most early records were clearly associated with gardens. Nowadays almost always associated with birdseed. Papaver somniferum (blue maw seed) is imported and sold as bird food (Hanson & Mason 1985) and as a result frequently occurs on dumps from discarded birdseed waste. Sometimes also seen as an escape from cultivation (often forms with double or laciniate flowers).

Papaver somniferum as currently known in cultivation (subsp. somniferum) is not known in the wild. It is probably derived from subsp. setigerum (DC.) Corb. (syn.: P. setigerum DC.). This taxon typically has setose sepals and most leaf-teeth are aristate but intermediate forms also occur. It has been reported from Belgium (see for instance Verloove & Vandenberghe 1998) but this record turned out to belong to a robust form of Papaver rhoeas. Huge plants of the latter indeed somehow resemble Papaver somniferum subsp. setigerum but they are readily distinguished by non-clasping leaves and filiform filaments.


Selected literature:

Anonymous (1985) Papaver somniferum Linn. (Papaveraceae). Bibliography. Med. Arom. Plants Abstr. 6: 577-589.

Danert S. (1958) Zur Systematik von Papaver somniferum L. Kulturpflanze 6: 61-88. 

Fritsch R. (1979) Zur Samenmorphologie des Kulturmohns (Papaver somniferum L.). Kulturpflanze 27: 217-227.

Hammer K. (1981) Problems of Papaver somniferum - classification and some remarks on recently collected Eurasian poppy land-races. Kulturpflanze 29: 287-296.

Hammer K. & Fritsch R. (1977) Zur Frage nach der Ursprungsart des Kulturmohns (Papaver somniferum L.). Kulturpflanze 35: 113-124.

Hanson C.G. & Mason J.L. (1985) Bird seed aliens in Britain. Watsonia 15: 237-252.

Hrishi N.J. (1960) Cytogenetical studies on Papaver somniferum L. and Papaver setigerum DC. and their hybrid. Genetica 31: 1-130.

Kadereit J.W. (1986c) Papaver somniferum L. - (Papaveraceae): A triploid hybrid? Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 106: 221-244.

Kadereit J.W. (1987a) Experimental evidence on the affinities of Papaver somniferum (Papaveraceae). Pl. Syst. Evol. 156: 189-195.

Kapoor L.D. (1995) Opium poppy: botany, chemistry and pharmacology. New York: Food Products Press: XVIII + 326 p.

Schultze-Motel J. (1979) Die urgeschichtlichen Reste des Schlofmohns (Papaver somniferum L.) und die Entstehung der Art. Kulturpflanze 27: 207-215.

Verloove F. & Vandenberghe C. (1998) Nieuwe en interessante voederadventieven voor de Belgische flora, hoofdzakelijk in 1997. Dumortiera 72: 18-36. [available online at:]

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