Poppy, or Papaver, L. a genus ants comprising nine species, eight of which are indigenous : the following, of these, are the most remarkable:
1. The Rhoeos, Red Poppy,. Corn-rose, Cop-rose, or Head-wakk, grows in corn-fields, and flowers from June till August. The petals, when infused, yield a fine colour , and a syrup is prepared from such infusion, which partakes in some measure of the properties of opium, and is occasionally used in coughs, and catarrhal affections, on account of its anodyne effects.—These flower-leaves also yield, on expression, a bright-red juice, which imparts its colour to water, and the tint of which may be greatly improved by the addition of the vitriolic acid. Thus cloth, linen, and especially silk and cotton, were dyed of a beautiful deep-red shade.—The stuffs, previously immersed in a solution of bismuth, acquired a yellow cast; though Dambourney obtained only a pale nut-colour.
2. The album, v. somnifcrum, White or Wild Poppy, is found in neglected gardens and cornfields, where it flowers in the month of June or July. The juice, which, after making incisions,exudes from the heads of this species, is suffered to inspissate by the heat of the sun, and thus affords the drag called Opium. An extract is also prepared from these seed-vessels ; which, being less powerful than the foreign opium, is given in a double quantity, to produce similar effects. The seeds are very nourishing ; are divested of the narcotic property of the flower; and yield on expression a mild, sweet oil, little inferior to that of almonds : hence, they are often employed as an article of diet. — LiNNAEUS counted in one poppy-head 32,000 seeds ; and as there are white and blue grains, we understand from an experienced gardener, that the former, when found in heads, the capsule onpulse of which is of a blueish cast, are the most successful for propagating the species, and likewise afford a larger proportion of sweet-oil than the blue seed.
Poppies grow in almost every soil, but they flourish most luxuriantly in rich loamy ground, well manured with rotten dung, and frequently ploughed or turned, so as to render it mellow. The seeds may then be either drilled in rows about nine inches apart, or sown broad-cast, first towards the end of February, and a second time in March: though the latter process is sometimes followed, for winter-seed, in the month of September or October. As soon as the plants appear, they must be carefully weeded, by which means their growth will be promoted ; so that each root will produce from four to ten heads, or pods, containing large variegated flowers. When the leaves begin to wither, it will be proper to extract the opium : for this purpose, four or five longitudinal incisions, about one inch in length, must be made on one side of the head, so as to cut through the outer or scarf-skin, without injuring the seeds. In consequence of such wound, a glutinous milky fluid will exude, which should not be removed till the succeeding clay, when it ought to be scraped off into proper vessels; and, in the course of one or two days, the opium will be of a proper consistence to be formed into a mass. The opposite side must next be wounded in a similar manner, in order that the viscous juice may be completely extracted.
In the year 1796, the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, etc. granted the premium of fifty guineas to Mr. Ball; and also a similar reward to Mr. Jones ; for their exertions in obtaining the largest quantity of British Opium. As their method was nearly similar to that above described, it is but justice to observe, that their preparations have received the sanction of several medical gentlemen, in whose opinion, the new produce is in all respects equal to the best Turkey opium.
3. The Argemone, Prickly, or Long Rough-headed Poppy, is an annual plant thriving in cornfields ; flowering in the months of June and July.—This weed much resembles the Red Poppy, and grows in similar places, though the former delights more in a sandy soil: hence it ought to be distinguished from the genuine plant, by its prickly seed-capsule, and the black points of its red flower-leaves.