Ten facts you probably didn't know about poppies
The poppy is widely recognised flower with a fascinating history. Here are ten interesting facts about poppies. Main photo by AnnaÏck Guitteny
Few flowers are as recognisable as the poppy. As an emblem of remembrance, it is deeply embedded in our psyches. It is an influential group of flowers with a fascinating history.
Here are ten facts you probably don't know about poppies.
Then facts you didn't know about poppies
There's not just one poppy
There are more than 70 species of Papaver, in a range of shapes and colours to suit a range of gardens and planting styles. Its versatility is one of its strengths and just one of the many reasons why it such a popular garden flower.
Read our expert guide to growing Papaver.
Poppies hail from the Arctic Circle
Papaver grows mainly in the northern hemisphere, with one species found in southern Africa. Papaver nudicaule, the Icelandic poppy, comes from sub artic areas in Europe and America, including within the Arctic Circle. They are part of the Papaveraceae family, which includes other genera commonly referred to as poppies, such as Meconopsis (the Himalyan poppy) and Eschscholzia (the Californian poppy).
Sir Cedric Morris bred a grey poppy
Artist and gardener Sir Cedric Morris, known for his garden at Benton End, was a keen poppy hunter. After the Second World War, Morris scoured the Suffolk countryside for variations in the common field poppy, Papaver rhoeas. He eventually bred a range with a smoky-grey sheen to the petals.
The poppy has been cultivated for a long time
As long ago as 2700 BCE the Minoans, a sophisticated civilisation based around Crete, are known to have cultivated poppies for their seed.
There are a surprising number of poppy variations
The genus is wide ranging and encompasses species whose flowers can be extremely different. The opium poppy is far less fragile than the field poppy and produces flowers that are burly and flamboyant. Poppies can range in colour from deepest purple to red, orange, yellow and white.
The one you're likely to be most familiar with is Papaver orientale
Papaver orientale is amongst the most widely grown perennial and its typically blousy flowers have made it popular in exuberant planting design. Most cultivars were bred in Britain in the early 20th century by nurseryman Amos Perry.
One particular poppy was found by chance
Papaver orientale 'Patty's Plum' was found growing on the compost heap of one Mrs Patricia Marrow in the 1980s. Its dusky plum-coloured flowers caused a sensation when the plant was first introduced.
Poppy seeds are banned in some places
In China, Taiwan and Singapore the seeds are banned because of their potential to be used in to grow opium poppies. Even food containing the seeds is prohibited, although the ripe seed has negligible narcotic properties.
Poppies can be found on the coat of arms of the Royal College of Anaesthetists
Golden morphia poppy heads are displayed on the Royal College of Anaesthetists coat of arms as they represent general anaesthetic and analgesia.
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