Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Papaver bracteatum

One of my most-awaited plants began to bloom this year on May 9th.  In the 10 years it has grown in my garden, it has bloomed three times on my birthday, May 16th, so it is a bit early this year, but welcome nonetheless. 

Years ago, I purchased a poppy labeled as the Red Himalayan poppy and also as Papaver bracteatum at a local store on the promise that the red of this poppy would be as bright as advertised.  And I believe it has fulfilled that promise with stunning success, although the plant was obviously mislabeled.  Papaver bracteatum is the scientific name for the Iranian poppy, not the Red Himalayan poppy, so one of the two names must be wrong and I choose to believe it was the common name printed on the label that was incorrect.

Papaver bracteatum is a perennial poppy with large bright red flowers up to 8 inches (20 cm) across on stiff stalks up to 3 1/2 feet high here in Kansas Zone 5B.  It has deep purpleish-black "sex" parts in the center and a prominent black spot near the base of the petals. I'll admit that in growth form and habit, I could have been sold an Oriental poppy under two false names and I might not know the difference. Papaver bracteatum was one of the species that the perennial Oriental poppies were derived from and it is similar in plant and flower form to the latter anyway.  If mine is a plain old Oriental, it's the brightest red and has the largest flowers I've ever seen.

The species has been used commercially to produce thebaine, which can be converted to codeine and semi-synthetic opiates, but it does not contain  morphine or other alkaloids.  According to Wikipedia, the Office of Management and Budget under  President Richard Nixon proposed domestic cultivation of P. bracteatum in the early 1970's as an alternative source of opiates to decrease the pressure for illegal opium poppy crops and heroin production.  However, for once, the US government wisely realized that substituting one source of drug misuse for another was not perhaps the best of choices and withdrew the recommendation.

All I can say in that regard is that this has not been an easy plant to reproduce for me, either from seed or by division. I had two plants at one time from a division of the original, but any competition for space, say, a rampant daylily, can eventually snuff this little gem out.  I guard the original plant with all my meager gardening abilities.

1 comment:

  1. Meager? I didn't think you did anything from a meager I have about 25 seedling perennial poppies to put out soon. Pink...did you have any poppies come up volunteer?


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