Illegal drug, household baking item, or common medicine?
Actually, Papaver somniferum is all the above!
P. somniferum is a widely cultivated plant from which opiates like the illegal narcotic drug heroin stems. Pain-killers derived from the opium poppy such as codeine and morphine are commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry. The seeds of this plant are widely sought after for use in bagels, cakes, muffins, or pressed to form poppyseed oil for cooking. The poppy plant itself is valuable for ornamental purposes.
The poppy is an erect, annual plant generally standing up to three feet tall (sometimes more). It is usually unbranched, hairless, and has bluish-green fleshy leaves. The bowl-shaped flowers with broad, rounded, overlapping petals are also erect, growing typically 2-5in. in diameter when found in the wild or up to 7in. when cultivated. The smooth, latex-containing fruit capsule can get up to 4in. in diameter and is usually oblong with 5-12 or more rays on a lobed stigmatic disk.
Within the species Papaver somniferum, there are many subspecies. Appearances can vary including petal colors ranging from red, pink, and orange to purple, blue, and white. Height, size of fruit-capsule, leaves, and flowering types also are extremely variable within the P. somniferum species.
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Click here to begin by learning a little about the taxonomy and Classification of the opium poppy.