The Q&A Archives: Poppies

Question: This spring I purchased what I thought were the popular variety of poppies. Well, they have grown and are about to bloom, and to my dismay, they look and feel just like the thistles that are growing in the fields around here. Everyone in this county has to dig the thistles up, or face possible fines. What kind of poppy do I have, and is it as evasive as the thistles? If I let them go to seed will they scatter to the four winds, like the thistle?

Answer: Sounds like you have the perennial Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale). The foliage is toothed or lobed and hairy, and the flowers are produced on tall stems. The flowers are papery-looking, in bright clear colors, with jet-black centers. You'll be impressed with the blooms and will change your mind about the plant's lowly appearance as soon as the buds open. Some poppies self-sow if the seedpods are allowed to remain, but the plants themselves do not become invasive. Place some labels next to your plants identifying them as poppies so they won't be mis-identified or accidentally removed from the garden.

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