This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Unlike the Opium Poppy and Long Rough-headed Poppy, both of which appear in Neolithic beds (when they were cultivated), this species is not found so early.
It is found in Europe, N. Africa, W. Asia as far as India. It is found in 106 vice-counties of Great Britain, but not in Cardigan, Mid Lanes, Cumberland, Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Stirling, or Elgin. It is rare north of the Tay; and occurs in Ireland and the Channel Islands. Watson calls it a colonist.
The Common Red Poppy which reddens, as though with blood-drops, the golden grain in autumn, is a widely distributed plant which has followed the plough, and comes up in every cornfield, and along the railway-bank, where weeds are liable to accumulate, being blown out of passing trucks or caught as by a barrier by the line of rail, and in all waste places, and by roadsides. Where we find Shepherds Purse and the Golden Charlock, there also we shall find the Red Poppy.
This elegant plant, whose flowers are so fugacious or shortlived (hence Rhoeas) and tend to tumble so soon, is an erect plant, with divided leaves, with many branches, which spread out in a nearly erect manner. The leaves are deeply notched and deeply divided (1 - 2).
The whole plant is thus pyramidal from below upwards. It grows in clusters amid the corn, or more thickly when it is more erect and less spreading, by the wayside.
The flower is scarlet with a black spot at the base, and in bud the flowers hang down but are erect afterwards.
The capsule or fruit is smooth and rounded, and the flower-stalk has spreading hairs. The filaments are awl-shaped, numerous, and there is no style. The stigma is convex, with the lobes overlapping.
In height this poppy reaches 2 ft., flowering from June to July. It is an annual, the seeds falling out by the opening of pores in the capsule beneath the stigma.
The sepals fall off as the flower expands. The flower has 4 petals, and many stamens closely surround the stigma and ripen before the flower opens, and are covered with pollen. This covers the lobes of the stigma which radiate from the centre of a circular disk on the top of the pistil, but the higher parts protrude, so that they are free from pollen. There is no honey, but insects alight on the broad stigma for pollen, and if another flower has been visited already cross-pollina96 flowers of the cornfields tion follows. The petals are weak and liable to drop, so that the stigma is necessarily the resting-place.
The seeds of the Common Red Poppy are dispersed by the wind. The capsule or fruit is perforated at the top, and when the wind blows the seeds are scattered through the pores as pepper from a pepper-box, but here in an erect position.
It is a sand plant and requires a sand soil, being found on the older rocks largely of clastic origin, as well as on gravel and on lime soil.
Entoloma bicolor, a rare fungus, and Peronospora arborescens often destroy whole beds of cultivated poppies.
The plant is galled by Aulax papaveris, Aulax minax, Cecidomyia brassicae, Sciaphila wahlbomiana; the Homopterous Aphis brassicae and the fly Chromatomyia albiceps infest it.
Pliny gave the name Papaver, a poppy, which is the same as the Anglo-Saxon popig. Rhoeas, given by Lobel (tenth century), is from Greek rheo, flow, meaning falling off, in allusion to the fugacious petals or milky stem.
The English names are Blind Eyes, Blindy-buffs, Bledewort, Canker, Canker Rose, Cheesebowl, Cockrose, Cock's-comb, Collin-hood, Copper-rose, Corn Rose, Corn-flower, Cuprose, Cusk Darnel, Ear-aches, Fireflout, Lightnings, Maws, Poison Poppy, Pope, Rid-weed, Soldiers, Thunder Bolts, Yedwark.
The Red Poppy is called Poison Plant in allusion to the supposed properties (cf. also Headache). To weed poppies is called "poping". Blind Eyes is the Yorkshire name, from a belief it will cause blindness placed too near the eyes. Cusk or cushion, a drinking-cup, alludes to the shape of the capsule. Poppyheads are said to cause violent earache if placed in the ear, and the same applies to headaches.
Corn poppies that in crimson dwell, Called headaches from their sickly smell; and again,
When headaches rattle Pigs will sattle; that is, fall in price, they being cheap in July. Irishwomen particularly object to poppies.
If the petals fall off, the would-be gatherer in Berwickshire was supposed to be struck by lightning, hence the name Lightnings. The Red Poppies which sprang up after Waterloo on the field are locally held to have sprung from the blood of the slain. Virgil calls it the Lethean poppy. From its sleep-producing properties it is the symbol of sleep and death. The heads were once steeped in wine and used to induce sleep. The petals are still employed to colour medicines. Owing to the quantity of the seeds Cybele, mother of the gods, is represented as crowned with poppy-heads.
Photo. H. Irving - Common Red Poppy (Papaver Rhoeas, L.)
This poppy is cultivated as a garden flower, both single and double varieties being known.
The juice is employed to form a sedative medicine. It was used in love divination, the leaf being prophetic. It was sacred to Venus. St. Margaret's Day (July 20) was celebrated in connection with the vanquished Dragon.
Poppies a sanguine mantle spread For the blood of the Dragon that Margaret shed.
Essential Specific Characters:18. Papaver Rhaeas, L.-Stem hispid, bristles patent, many-flowered; leaves sessile, pinnatifid, flower scarlet, large, black at the limb, capsule globose, smooth, filaments subulate.