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A poppy is any of a number of colorful flowers, typically withone per stem, belonging to the poppy family. They include a number of attractive wildflower species with colorful flowers found growing singularly or in large groups; many species are also grown in gardens. Those that are grown in gardens include large plants used in a mixed herbaceous border and small plants that are grown in rock or alpine gardens.

The flower color of poppy species include: white, pink, yellow, orange, red, and blue; some have dark center markings. The species that have been cultivated for many years also include many other colors ranging from dark solid colors to soft pastel shades. The center of the flower has a whorl of stamens surrounded by a cup- or bowl-shaped collection of four to six petals. Prior to blooming, the petals are crumpled in bud, and as blooming finishes, the petals often lie flat before falling away.

The pollen of the oriental poppy, Papaver orientale, is dark blue. The pollen of the field poppy or corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is dark blue to grey. Bees will use poppies as a pollen source.

Poppies may be found in the genera:


All species of poppies are attractive and most are cultivated as ornamental garden plants. A few species have other uses, principally as sources of drugs and foods. One species is so widely used, for both drugs and food, that its world production is monitored by international agencies. That species is the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. It is grown for opium and opiates obtained from it, poppy seed for use in cooking and baking, poppyseed oil for both culinary and other uses, and as an ornamental garden plant.


Poppies have long been used as a symbol of both sleep and death: sleep because of the opium extracted from them, and death because of their (commonly) blood-red color. In Greco-Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead. Poppies are used as emblems on tombstones to symbolize eternal sleep. This aspect was used, fictionally, in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to create magical poppy fields, dangerous because they caused those who passed through them to sleep forever.

A second meaning for the depiction and use of poppies in Greco-Roman myths is the symbolism of the bright scarlet colour as signifying the promise of resurrection after death.

Plastic Remembrance Day poppies
Poppy worn on the lapel
The poppy of wartime remembrance is Papaver rhoeas, the red flowered Corn poppy. This poppy is a common weed in Europe and is found in many locations, including Flanders Fields, the setting for the famous poem by Canadian surgeon and soldier, John McCrae, "In Flanders Fieldsmarker".

The California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, is the state flower of Californiamarker.

In Mexicomarker, Grupo Modelo, the makers of Corona beer, used red poppy flowers in its advertising (almost any image it used had poppy flowers somewhere in the image) until the 1960s.

False positive drug tests

Although the drug opium is produced by "milking" latex from the unripe fruits ("seed pods") rather than from the seeds, all parts of the plant can contain or carry the opium alkaloids, especially morphine and codeine. This means that eating foods (e.g., muffins) that contain poppy seeds can result in a false positive for opiates in a drug test. The test is true positive in that it indicates the presence of the drug correctly; it is false only in the sense that the drug was not taken in the typical manner of abuse.

This was considered "confirmed" by the presenters of the television program MythBusters. One participant, Adam Savage, who ate an entire loaf of poppy seed cake, tested positive for opiates just half an hour later. A second participant, Jamie Hyneman, who ate three poppy seed bagels, first tested positive two hours after eating. Both tested positive for the remainder of the day, but tested negative seventy-two hours later. The show Brainiac: Science Abuse also did experiments where a priest ate several poppy seed bagels and gave a sample, which also resulted in a false positive.

The results of this experiment are inconclusive, because a test was used with an opiate cutoff level of 300 ng/mL instead of the current SAMHSA recommended cutoff level used in the NIDA 5 test, which was raised from 300 ng/mL to 2,000 ng/mL in 1998 in order to avoid false positives from poppy seeds. However, according to an article published in the Medical Science Law Journal, after ingesting "a curry meal or two containing various amounts of washed seeds" where total morphine levels were in the range 58.4 to 62.2 µg/g seeds, the urinary morphine levels were found to range as high as 1.27 µg/mL (1,270 ng/mL) urine. Another article in the Journal of Forensic Science reports that concentration of morphine in some batches of seeds may be as high as 251 µg/g. In both studies codeine was also present in the seeds in smaller concentrations. Therefore it is possible to cross the current standard 2,000 ng/mL limit of detection, depending on seed potency and quantity ingested. Some toxicology labs still continue to use a cutoff level of 300 ng/mL.

A fictional example of such a false positive test in popular culture was in the Seinfeld episode The Shower Head, where the character Elaine Benes was fired after testing positive from the consumption of poppy seed muffins.

The sale of poppy seeds from Papaver somniferum is banned in Singaporemarker because of the morphine content. Poppy seeds are also banned in Saudi Arabiamarker for various religious and drug control reasons.

The poppy in literature

The Wizard of Oz

What may be the most well known literary use of the poppy occurs both in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and in MGM's classic 1939 film based on the novel.

In the novel, while on their way to the Emerald City, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion walk through a field of poppies, and both Dorothy and the Lion mysteriously fall asleep, as if from the opium of poppies. The Scarecrow and the Tin Man, not being made of flesh and blood, are unaffected. They carry Dorothy to safety and place her on the ground beyond the poppy field. While they are considering how to help the Lion, a field mouse runs in front of them, fleeing a cougar. The Tin Man beheads the cougar with his axe, and the field mouse pledges her eternal gratitude. Being the Queen of the Field Mice, she gathers all her subjects together. The Tin Man cuts down several trees, and builds a wagon. The Lion is pushed onto it, and the mice pull the wagon safely out of the poppy field.

In the 1939 film, the sequence is considerably altered. The poppy field is conjured up by the Wicked Witch of the West, and it appears directly in front of the Emerald City, preventing the four travelers from reaching it. As in the novel, Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion fall asleep, but in a direct reversal of the book, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man are unable to carry Dorothy. Glinda, who has been watching over them, conjures up a snowfall which kills the poppies' opiate power and enables Dorothy and the Lion to awaken. Unfortunately, the Tin Man has been weeping in despair, and the combination of his tears and the wet snow has caused him to rust. After he is oiled by Dorothy, the four skip happily toward the Emerald City.

In Baum's other Oz books, Oz's ruler, Princess Ozma, is often shown wearing poppies in her hair as decoration.

War poetry

Poppies stand as a prominent feature of In Flanders Fieldsmarker, one of the most frequently quoted English-language poems composed by front-line personnel during the First World War. It was written by John McCrae, a doctor serving in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, and appeared for the first time in Punch magazine on December 8, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.

- John McCrae

Persian literature

In Persian literature, red poppies, especially red corn poppy flowers, are considered the flower of love. They are often called the eternal lover flower.

Gallery of poppy images

Image:Poppy - Ontario Canada - Relic38.JPG|Close-up of an Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale). Ontario, Canada. June 2002.Image:Poppybud.jpg|A poppy bud and plant.Image:Crowning P Somniferum topview.jpg|Immature crowning Opium Poppy, top view.Image:Poppy bud opening.jpg|A poppy bud opening.Image:Poppy seeds.jpg|Papaver somniferum seeds.Image:Poppy-closeup.jpg|Papaver rhoeas.Image:PoppyClose.jpg|Closeup of a poppy flower in private garden, Derbyshiremarker, England, UK, May 2007.Image:Poppy-purple.png|Close up view of a poppy bloom (and buds in the background). Papaver somniferum. See Opium Poppy.Image:Poppy-closeup2.jpg|Closeup of a poppy flower at the Monastery of Lorch, Baden-Württembergmarker, Germanymarker.Image:California Poppies3.jpg|California Poppy.Image:Oldpoppies.jpg|Field of poppies, from a photograph by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, taken ca. 1912.Image:HPIM4092.JPG|A wild field of poppies, above the Wye Valley, UKmarker, in June 2006.Image:Poppy2004.JPG|Poppies near Kellingmarker, North Norfolk, UKmarker, in June 2002Image:BluePoppy.jpg|Himalayan blue poppies near Gumburanjonmarker in Zanskar, Indiamarker in July 2008Image:Poppy-seeds.jpg|Close up of white poppy seeds. There are about 140 000 poppy seeds to the ounceImage:SeedsCaliforniapoppy.jpg|Close up of California poppy seeds.

See also

External links


  1. L. Frank Baum, Michael Patrick Hearn, The Annotated Wizard of Oz, p 173, ISBN 0-517-500868
  2. Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, 24. 15 p 96, ISBN 0-14-001026-2
  3. Erowid Opiates Vault : Drug Tests
  4. Opiated curry
  5. Poppy-seeds: codeine, morphine and urinanalysis
  6. Detection of Opiates in Urine - Toxicology Laboratories - HealthWorld Online
  7. Ignorance Is No Excuse for Breaking Law
  8. Dr. Hutchins, R. E. 1965. The Amazing Seeds. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company.

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