Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Poppy, the genus Papaver, the type of the order Papaveracea?, a small group of herbs with a milky juice; fibrous roots; generally lobed leaves; ebracteate axillary flowers, with two or three caducous, half-equitant sepals; four or six: crumpled petals; numerous stamens, often black; and a syncarpous ovary, with radiating stigma, forming a many-seeded pore-capsule with partial septa. Four species with scarlet flowers are common weeds in cultivated ground in England; but are susceptible to frost which suggests an exotic origin. The most important species is P. somniferum, the opium poppy, supposed to be a native of the Levant, but now widely grown, in part as a garden flower. It is an erect annual, two to five feet high, entirely glaucous, with sinuous sessile leaves and petals of various colours, but most commonly white or violet, and often double. The flower bud is pendulous. From the capsules in this country syrup of poppies, a powerful sedative, the anodyne fomentation, the decoction of poppy-heads, and an extract, are prepared; but in India, Persia, Egypt, etc., the plant is grown mainly for the manufacture of opium, which is obtained by incisions in the unripe capsules whence the latex (q.v.) exudes and coagulates. India exports about 6,500 tons of opium to China annually, valued at ten million sterling. We import about 250 tons, chiefly from Turkey and Persia, for medical purposes. The seeds yield nearly 50 per cent. of a valuable, pale golden, scentless oil of agreeable taste, not narcotic, used by painters, in India in cookery, and as an adulterant of olive oil. The seeds themselves are eaten in India, Greece, and elsewhere. We import over 25,000 tons of the seeds from India, mostly for oil-Crushing. There are two varieties, the white and the greyish-black, the latter being used under the name of maw-seed for cage-birds.