Herbs with alternate leaves and milky juice. Flowers regular, usually of 4 petals. Sepals usually 2. Stamens indefinite. Ovules parietal. A family represented in the Alps and sub-Alps by very few species.

Papaver Alpinum L. Alpine Poppy

Root tapering, with prostrate, scaly branches and loosely tufted. Stem erect, simple, leafless, 1-flowered, hispid, like the whole plant. Leaves all radical, stalked, doubly pinnate. Segments linear lanceolate or wedge-shaped, entire. Flowers white with yellow centre, or yellow or orange when on granite soil. Stamens subulate. Capsules obovate, with stiff adpressed hairs.

Principally on limestone, or on granitic debris of the high Alps (5500-9000 feet), and sometimes descending into the valleys and beds of streams. June to August.


Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Carpathians, Balkans, Apennines; high mountains of Europe from Spain to Norway; Northern and Central Asia.

In Switzerland it is represented by two sub-species: P. Burseri Crantz, a glabrous form found in the Alps of Gruyere, Chateau d'Oex, etc.; and P. Sendtneri Kerner, a hairy form with less cut leaves, which also grows above Chateau d'Oex and on Pilatus, etc.

The Arctic or Iceland Poppy (P. nudicaulis) is very similar to P. alpinum; and P. pyrenaicum Willd. is only a form of P. alpinum, though formerly some botanists considered it a distinct species.

Papaver Aurantiacum Loisel. (P. Rhceticum Leresche)

Flowers yellow or orange. Leaves pinnatifid; segments thick, oval or broadly lanceolate, hairy. Flowering stem very hairy. Sepals covered with dark brown hairs. Capsule obovate, hispid, with erect, silky hairs.

Moraines and debris, especially on limestone. July, August.


In Switzerland in the Engadine and Valais, rare; Tyrol (Salzburg) and Carinthia.

The Alpine and Iceland Poppies are easily grown from seed, and they adapt themselves to any part of the rockery in sandy loam. The plants are best left undisturbed.

Meconopsis Viguier

Ovary ovoid, with a short style and slightly dilated stigma of 4-6 rays. Capsule opening at the top in as many short valves, the placentas inside lining the cavity, but not projecting to the centre.

A small genus containing, besides the European species, a few from Central Asia and North-West America.

Meconopsis Cambrica Vig. Welsh Poppy

Rootstock perennial, and forming large tufts, with thick tapering roots. Stems erect, about a foot high. Leaves on long stalks, pale green and slightly hairy, pinnate, the segments usually distinct, ovate or lanceolate, toothed or lobed. Flowers large, pale yellow, on long peduncles. Capsules narrow, ovate or oblong, glabrous.

Rocky woods and shady places in hilly districts. June-August.


Western Europe from Spain to Ireland, including the Pyrenees, Central Plateau of France, Wales, and Western England. Probably not in Switzerland.

Chelidonium L

Leaves much divided. Flowers yellow. Ovary 1-celled. Capsule linear, valves thin. Only 2 species. They extend from Europe to Japan.

Chelidonium Majus L. Greater Celandine

Though more strictly a plant of the plains, this well-known herb, with yellow flowers and handsome leaves and yellow juice, is not infrequently met with in the sub-alpine region, though even there it is usually in the neighbourhood of houses as, e.g. close to the villages of Evolene and Zinal in the Valais. The recently published coloured prints of Chelidonium, after the beautiful work of Albrecht Durer 400 years ago, show the accuracy of form and colour that great master possessed.