Characteristics of Poppy Plants (Papaver somniferum) in the Wild

Papaver somniferum
The poppy plant is a species of flowering plant in the Papaveraceae family, where it is a valuable ornamental plant.

The poppy plant originated in the eastern Mediterranean, but has now become widespread and naturalized in most of Europe and Asia.

The poppy plant is often grown as an agricultural crop on a large scale, for one of three main purposes.

    1.) The first is to produce seeds that can be eaten by humans, it is known as poppy seeds.

    2.) The second is to produce opium which is used by pharmaceuticals.

    3.) The third is to produce other alkaloids, especially Thaine and Oripavine, which are processed by the pharmaceutical industry into drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Poppy seeds contain natural alkaloids known as opiates, which include morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, noscapine, and oripavin.

Alkaloids themselves are organic nitrogen compounds, derivatives of secondary metabolism, synthesized through the benzylisoquinoline metabolic pathway.

A small number of the poppy plant is also cultivated by small farms or home cultivators for ornamental purposes.

There are many varieties of poppy flower plants that have been bred and continue to be cultivated.

Opium cultivars that do not contain opium are grown for production and processed into drugs with high levels of orpivine, such as the drug oxycodone.

Raw opium contains about 8-14% morphine by dry weight or more in cultivars. It can be used directly or modified chemically to produce synthetic opioids such as heroin.

The marketing and distribution of the poppy plant remain because its history of use predates the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act of 1938.

In the British Pharmacopoeia, the poppy plant is listed as a Class A substance under the Drug Abuse Act 1971.


Characteristics of Opium Leaf

Papaver somniferum Leaf
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Poppy leaves are large, coarse, curved, silvery-green in color, and look shabby.


Characteristics of Opium Flower

Papaver somniferum Flower
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Poppy flowers bloom from June to August. The flowers are 3-10 cm in diameter, usually with four white petals slightly lavender or red, sometimes with dark markings at the base.

Papaver somniferum Fruit
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The poppy fruit is a round hairless capsule topped with 12-18 stigmatic rays or fluted caps.


Characteristics of Opium Plant

Papaver somniferum Plant
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The poppy flower is a perennial plant that can grow to about 80-120 cm tall. The plant is very glaucous, gives it a grayish-green appearance, and its stems and leaves have slightly coarse hair.

All parts of the plant secrete a white sap when injured.

This plant was first described by the Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus in his 1753 publication in a book entitled Species Plantarum.

Today the poppy plant is naturalized widely in all regions of the British Isles, particularly in the south and east and in almost all other countries of the world with suitable temperate climates.


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