Poppies

Common Poppy Greater Celandine Opium Poppy Common Poppy

What are they?

The common poppy is so iconic and so well-known that it needs little or no introduction. But those cheerful red flowers of disturbed ground consist of more than one species, whole there are many other species in a riot of different colours. Our native poppies are most fast-growing annuals that produce copious amounts of seed from their 'pepperpot' seed capsules, but there are perennial species too, especially among those that are popular in gardens.

Where are they found?

Our native species are mostly found as weeds of disturbed ground, especially on light, sandy or chalky soils. However, one species is a coastal beach specialist while others occur as garden escapes on waste ground, roadsides and similar places.

Identification

As a group, poppies can be distinguished by their flowers, which generally have four, rather large, thin and floppy petals, combined with the presence of milky white or yellowish sap. Distinguishing the species requires attention to leaf shape (though for red species of arable ground these are very variable and not so useful), flower colour and a close look at the seed capsule in the centre of the flower (which persists after the petals have dropped).



Common Poppy      Papaver rhoeas

Archaeophyte. Modern farming practices have largely consigned mass flowering events of this species to the history books, but just occasionally, a field left to rest for a year, or a corner that was missed by the herbicide spray enlivens our countryside with colour. Though much less common than formerly, this is still a common species, found throughout the region on disturbed ground. Flowers late May to August. By far our commonest red poppy, though beware of introduced species such as Atlas Poppy in urban or suburban places. Petals broadly overlapping, red, or red with a blackish basal blotch. Seed capsule only a little longer than wide.'Shirley Poppies' are cultivated forms of this species and may have more than four petals and come in a range of pink shades; flowers may also be white.

Common Poppy Common Poppy Common Poppy Common Poppy
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Long-headed Poppy      Papaver dubium

Archaeophyte. Widespread and often occurring in small numbers mixed in with Common Poppy. A plant of lighter soils and mostly absent from the heavier boulder clays. Flowers June to August. Petals overlapping, though often less so than in Common Poppy; red, often a shade lighter than Common Poppy and only occasionally with a blackish basal blotch. Seed capsule much longer than wide. Sap milky white, like most poppies.

Long-headed Poppy Long-headed Poppy Long-headed Poppy Long-headed Poppy
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Yellow-juiced Poppy      Papaver lecoqii

Archaeophyte. In Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, this species is more common (though still scarce) than long-headed Poppy in Fenland; in Suffolk it is widespread but rare on heavier boulder clay, where Long-headed Poppy is less frequently found. Flowers June to August. Often considered merely a subspecies of Long-headed Poppy, recent taxonomies give this plant full species status. Petals overlapping, though often less so than in Long-headed Poppy and often leaving a gap between the petals at the base. Petals red, a shade lighter than Common Poppy. Seed capsule much longer than wide. Sap pale yellow, distinguishing it from other poppies.

Yellow-juiced Poppy Yellow-juiced Poppy Yellow-juiced Poppy Yellow-juiced Poppy
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Pale yellow sap
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Prickly Poppy      Papaver argemone

Archaeophyte. Widespread but uncommon, mostly found as an arable weed but occasionally also in urban sites and even on walls. Flowers June to July. Smaller and shorter than our other arable poppies. Petals with a clear gap between them; rich red with a dark basal blotch. Seed capsule much longer than wide and with long bristles.

Prickly Poppy Prickly Poppy Prickly Poppy Prickly Poppy
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Atlas Poppy      Papaver atlanticum

Introduced. Widespread and currently uncommon, though slowly increasing where self-seeded from gardens onto walls, pavements and open ground, mostly in villages and towns. Flowers April to July. A relatively tall poppy with upright stems carrying flowers that are usually a shade more orangey than other red poppies; sometimes occurs as a double form. Seed capsule much longer than wide. Best told from other red poppies by the leaf segments, which are much broader and less deeply divided than those of similar species.

Atlas Poppy Atlas Poppy Atlas Poppy Atlas Poppy
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Oriental Poppy      Papaver pseudoorientale

Introduced. Widely grown as a garden plant and occasionally found surviving in grassy places from dumped garden waste. Flowers May to July. A large and imposing, perennial species with impressive flowers that are easily damaged by rain or wind due to the thin and floppy petals. Flowers usually orange-red with a dark basal blotch but may also be pink, white or double-flowered. Leaves, stems and flower buds all covered in bristly hairs.

Oriental Poppy Oriental Poppy Oriental Poppy Oriental Poppy
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Opium Poppy      Papaver somniferum

Introduced. Formerly grown as a crop for a variety of uses, including production of opiates and bird seed, but mostly found as an escape from gardens. Quite common in urban and suburban areas in dry soil on roadsides and rough ground. Flowers May to August. A tall and stately species, easily told from other poppies by the waxy grey, wavy-edged leaves and stems. Grown in a wide range of colours from white, through lilac and pink to red and dark maroon and in both single and double forms. When left to self-seed, populations usually seem to revert to the natural pale lilac with purple basal blotch. Seed capsules waxy grey and chunky.

Opium Poppy Opium Poppy Opium Poppy Opium Poppy
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Welsh Poppy      Meconopsis cambrica

Introduced, though native in Western Britain. Grown as a garden plant and occasionally spreading naturally from seed into shady places on damp banks and the edges of gravel drives. Flowers May to June. Natural populations have bright yellow flowers but plants with orange petals occur frequently in cultivated plants.

Welsh Poppy Welsh Poppy Welsh Poppy Welsh Poppy
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Yellow Horned Poppy      Glaucium flavum

Native. A common plant of shingle beaches and drier margins of saltmarshes. Flowers June to September. The deeply divided, greyish leaves and golden flowers of this species are a familiar sight along much of our coastline. Flowers are followed by curving seedpods that can be up to 30cm in length and give the plant its common name.

Yellow Horned Poppy Yellow Horned Poppy Yellow Horned Poppy Yellow Horned Poppy
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Red Horned Poppy      Glaucium corniculatum

Introduced as a garden ornamental and formerly recorded as a weed of seed imports from mainland Europe. Flowers June to September. The deeply divided, greyish leaves and very long seedpods are like those of our native Yellow Horned Poppy, but the flowers are deep orange in colour.

Red Horned Poppy Red Horned Poppy Red Horned Poppy
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Californian Poppy      Eschscholzia californica

Introduced as a garden plant and occasionally seeding naturally into nearby open ground, but not persisting. Recently included in some local authority planting schemes on roundabouts. Flowers May to August. The brilliant orange or deep yellow flowers with finely cut, glaucous foliage are hard to mistake for anything else.

Californian Poppy Californian Poppy Californian Poppy Californian Poppy
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Greater Celandine      Chelidonium majus

Archaeophyte. First introduced to the country for medicinal purposes and now widespread and not uncommon on rough ground in towns and cities and often growing on old walls. Flowers May to August. The four-petalled, yellow flowers are often mistaken for a member of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae) but the bright orange sap easily sets it apart from that family. Double-flowered forms are occasional in gardens and rarely escape onto roadsides and hedgebanks.

Greater Celandine Greater Celandine Greater Celandine Greater Celandine
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