Papaver somniferum – Opium Poppy

Papaver somniferum - Opium Poppy (flower)

Papaver somniferum - Opium Poppy (seed pods)

Papaver somniferum - Opium Poppy

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Papaver somniferum

Common Name: Opium Poppy

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Annual

Growth Habit: Herb/Forb

Arizona Native Status: Introduced. This long cultivated ornamental, medicinal, drug, and edible seed plant is native to southeastern Europe and western Asia.

Habitat: Desert. This beautiful poppy grows wild in disturbed areas near human habitation like roadsides, drainage ditches, and vacant lots.

Flower Color: Pink, Purple, Red, White

Flowering Season: Spring

Height: To 3 feet (91 cm) tall

Description: The showy flowers have many single and double cultivated forms and are up to 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter with broad, crinkled petals. The flower buds are drooping. The flowers are followed by large, round, capped, green seedpods that are cut and "milked" for their opium in the opium trade. The leaves clasp the stems and are simple, green, alternate, and have toothed, ruffled margins.

Special Characteristics

Edible – The seeds, commonly known as poppy seeds, are edible and widely used as a flavorful accent in breads and pastries.

Poisonous – Although it has medicinal uses in refined, carefully dosed amounts, the milky sap, especially from the green poppy pods, is poisonous and contains codeine, morphine, protopine, and other poppy alkaloids. Typically, only plants grown in warm, arid locations produce significant amounts of narcotic substances in their sap.


Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Magnoliidae
Order: Papaverales
Family: Papaveraceae – Poppy family
Genus: Papaver L. – poppy
Species: Papaver somniferum L. – opium poppy