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Is Growing Poppies Illegal?

Updated February 21, 2017

Native poppies grow all over the globe as annuals and perennials and come in a rainbow of colours. Information about them, however, tends to either ignore their legal limitations or discuss their circumvention.

The Facts

All paver species contain alkaloids including morphine and codeine that are controlled as U.S. Schedule I narcotics. Although these substances are used medicinally, state and federal governments regulate their manufacture and distribution.

Types of Poppies

Papaver rhoeus -- called corn, field, Flanders or Shirley poppy -- is an annual poppy; Perennial poppies include Iceland poppies (P. nudaucaule and P. Radicatum), Alpine poppy (P. alpinum) and Oriental poppy (P. orientale). Their culture is not regulated.

Opium Poppies

Alkaloid-containing latex harvested from P. somniferum's seed pod is processed into narcotics. Another opium poppy, P. bracteatum, or Persian poppy, has been grown for research in Australia. The legal prohibitions against harvesting and processing with intent to sell or distribute these substances makes the pods, seeds and plant tissue or "straw" of the opium poppy a highly questionable choice for the home garden.

Non-Papaver Poppies

California poppy, prickly poppy and more than a dozen more wildflowers are relatives of paver genera. They are not regulated.

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About the Author

An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.