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Valentine.gr  

April 2006

Did you know that Poppy was the sacred plant of Demeter, the godess of fertility and Ancient Greeks thought that poppies in the grains were a sign of fertility?

Field of poppies (Papaver Rhoeas)

Field Poppy - Papaver Rhoeas

This is probably one of the most popular wild flowers in Europe, both for its beauty, and its WorldWar II memorial. The plant is an annual herb which readily germinates from seeds. The branching stems have fine white or purple-red hair all along, especially at the flowering part. The flower stems are quite slender, and holds the solitary and terminal flowers. The bud is hanged upside down and then assumes a normal position just before blossoming. The stems have a white milky sap.

Most of the leaves are more or less found at the middle or lower part of the stem, leaving the flowers more conspicuous. They are stalked, oppositely-LYY arranged on the stems, and are so deeply pinnately-LYY divided, that each pinna (leaf lobe) is independent. They also have a coarsely serrated outline. The leaf pinnae-AEE and serrated outline varies from plant to plant.

The flower consists of 2 hairy sepals and 4 bright red to red-crimson petals, often having a dark blob at the base. The blob also varies from plant to plant and some may even lack it. The petals are fragile (detaches easily from the flower) and their size vary considerably, but can-ANN form flowers of about 50mm in diameter. At the center there is a globular or pot-shaped gynoecium that is pale green in colour and has radiating darker stripes at the top. The stigma are found upon these stripes. The base of the gynoecium is encircling by a cluster of many black stamens with anthers that may be covered with pale yellow or grey pollen.

The fruit is a seed capsule which is pale green and turns yellowish or light brown when the seeds matures. The glabrous seed-capsule is pot-shaped with a flattened top (lid) that has a slightly serrated circumference. The dehiscent poricidal capsule is operculate (possess a lid structure). It does not split open, but instead, the tiny (1mm), brown, kidney shaped seeds escape from pores at the lid part of the capsule when wind causes it to sway.

Origin of the Poppy is probably Asia and Far East. According to reference this plant is native to Northern Africa, Western Asia and Europe It is also naturalized in North America.

Papaver Rhoeas is very slightly narcotic. The chief constituent of the fresh petals is the red colouring matter, which consists of Rhoeadic and Papaveric acids. This colour is much darkened by alkalis. All parts of the plant contain the crystalline non-poisonous alkaloid Rhoeadine. The amount of active ingredients is very small and rather uncertain in quantity. There is great controversy as to the presence of Morphine. Also it has not been determined whether Meconic Acid, which is present in opium, is a constituent. 

The flowers of corn poppy have a long history of medicinal usage, especially for ailments in the elderly and children. Chiefly employed as a mild pain reliever and as a treatment for irritable coughs, it also helps to reduce nervous over-activity. Unlike the related opium poppy (P. somniferum) it is non-addictive. However, the plant does contain alkaloids, which are still under investigation, and so should only be used under the supervision of a qualified herbalist.

The flowers and petals are anodyne, emollient, emmenagogue, expectorant, hypnotic, slightly narcotic and sedative. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of bronchial complaints and coughs, insomnia, poor digestion, nervous digestive disorders and minor painful conditions. The flowers are also used in the treatment of jaundice. The petals are harvested as the flowers open and are dried for later use. They should be collected on a dry day and can be dried or made into a syrup.

The latex in the seed-pods is narcotic and slightly sedative. It can be used in very small quantities, and under expert supervision, as a sleep-inducing drug. The leaves and seeds are tonic. They are useful in the treatment of low fevers. The plant has anticancer properties.

Many parts of papaver are edible. Seeds - raw or cooked. Much used as a flavouring in cakes, bread, fruit salads etc. it imparts a very nice nutty flavour. The seeds are rather small, but they are contained in fairly large seed pods and so are easy to harvest. The seeds are perfectly safe to eat, containing none of the alkaloids associated with other parts of the plant. An edible oil is obtained from the seeds. This is said to be an excellent substitute for olive oil, it can be used in salad dressings or for cooking.

Leaves - raw or cooked. Used like spinach or as a flavouring in soups and salads. The leaves should not be used after the flower buds have formed. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Flower - A syrup can be prepared from the scarlet flower petals, it is used in soups, gruels etc. In the past it was also used as a substitute for tea. A red dye from the petals is used as a food flavouring, especially in wine.

Poppy was the sacred plant of Demeter, the godess of fertility. Ancient Greeks thought that poppies were a sign of fertility. Poppy seeds were thought to bring health and strength so Greek athletes were given mixtures of poppy seeds, honey, and wine. Demeter,so the legend goes, created the poppy for the purpose of getting some sleep after the loss of her daughter Persephone. The twin brothers Hypnos and Thanatos (sleep and Death) were represented as crowned with poppies or carrying poppies in their hands. Obviously the Greeks were aware of the fact that a merciful sleep induced by opium could lead to death.

Source:
http://www.marz-kreations.com/WildPlants/PAPV/ Papaver_rhoeas.html
http://www.sfheart.com/poppy.html
http://www.valentine.gr/spring_gr.php

 

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