IMG_0454Lettuce Leaf Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

Also known as Breadseed Poppy, this is one of my favorite self-sowing annuals that puts on quite a show in early summer. Only lasting a day, the delicate blossoms of papery petals are a lovely mauve color atop gray-green, sharply serrated foliage. This type of poppy comes in white, pink, red and purple colors, as well as fringed and double varieties.

Beloved by bees for their abundant pollen, I often get cross-pollinated seedlings with a red variety I grow in another bed, which can result in a lovely raspberry color. I try to keep the separate beds true to color, as I once almost lost the mauve in a sea of red, so if a red pops up in the mauve bed, I do not let it to go to seed.

July-Aug07 (5)

Happy bee in red/mauve cross.

Each seed pod contains dozens of tiny seeds that can be used for baking and cooking Eastern European and Indian dishes. I love lemon poppyseed muffins and fat bagels sprinkled liberally with poppy seeds. This is also the poppy from which opium is made, but one would need acres of poppies to collect enough sap to make trouble here!


After blooming, I generally allow only a few of the best plants go to seed and yank the rest, as they soon become unsightly, decimated by slugs and sooty mold. The pods can be used in dried arrangements after the seeds have been sprinkled around the garden for next year’s bloom. They reproduce prolifically and for best bloom, I thin the seedlings in spring to about a foot apart. It is quite amazing that they grow in two short months from a tiny seed the size of a comma to this lush, 24″ bloomer! Mother Nature is full of wonders, isn’t she?

July-Aug07 (8)Can you see the bee?


About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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23 Responses to Poppies

  1. Yes, I can see the bee! 🙂 It is all so beautiful!

  2. twoscamps says:

    Lovely! Hope you have lots of bees! We have Russian Sage that is teeming with bees! 😀

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Sadly, this year is the worst year yet for our lack of bees. Remember that old sixties song, “Where have all the flowers gone?” Now we ask, “Where have all the bees gone?”
      I’m glad to hear that your habitat still has lots of bees – that makes me happy and gives me hope!

  3. mk says:

    What beautiful flowers your poppies are! Nothing like the ones I see around California. Yours seem more dressed up, more like a young lady of the 19th century. The bees & the flowers look so happy together.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      The yellow/orange California poppies are a different genus and not true poppies per se. These do look quite dressed up I agree. Flowers and bees do have a love affair going on for sure! Who can blame them? I understand completely!

      • mk says:

        Oh noooooo! Our state flower isn’t even a real poppy?

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Sorry to alarm you! Technically, CA poppies are IN the poppy family, Papaveraceae. However, it’s classified as Eschscholzia californica, whereas this post features the genus Papaver, which are considered ‘true’ poppies. So they are related, but distant cousins! 😉

  4. dorannrule says:

    Oh, how beautiful these are, and I am so impressed with your patience and diligent gardening.

  5. What gorgeous flowers! They must be huge, judging by how they swallow the bees. What fun they must be to grow each year. Best wishes, WG

  6. Line says:

    I like poppies!! They are so cute! 🙂 I love the pink one the most! 🙂

  7. Robbie says:

    lovely + I see the bee!

  8. Oh, how I love poppies. They are my absolutely favorite. They always strike me as so strong and proud of their colors and stature!

  9. So very, very lovely. Amazing really.

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