Growth stages of papaver somniferum

Written by heidi cardenas
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Poppies are unique and unusual plants with beautiful flowers on long, stiff stalks and furry or smooth spiky leaves. Their flower buds are interesting-looking green bulbous growths before blooming. There are 23 kinds of poppies, some annual and some perennial flowering plants. Papaver Somniferum is the botanical name for the opium poppy, an annual from which narcotics are harvested. It goes through six distinct stages of growth.

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Pre-Germination Stage of Seeds

The seeds in the stage before germination are fertile and ready to sprout under the right conditions. Opium poppy seeds can remain viable, or able to germinate, for six years or longer under optimal storage conditions, which are dry and cold.

Germination of Seeds

Once planted in light, moist soil in a sunny area, seeds of the opium poppy germinate in 2 to 2 ½ weeks. They germinate best in moist but not wet or waterlogged soil, with exposure to warmth and sunlight. Soil that is too dry or too wet will interfere with germination and may kill seeds.

Basal Rosette Sprouts

In the spring, after germination, the seeds will sprout into a basal rosette, forming a round growth of long leaves. The plant leaves grow in a rosette form for 1 ½ to 2 months before flowering.

Flower Stalks

With an established leafy rosette, the opium poppy starts growing one to three stiff stalks from the centre of the round growth of leaves. The stalks take 3 to 4 weeks to grow and form round, green, bulbous flower buds. The plant needs adequate moisture during this growing stage to support the leaves and growth and development of flower stalks.

Flower Bud

Once the flower stalks have fully developed and flower buds have formed, the poppy is ready to blossom and form seeds. The flowers will bloom and last about 24 hours, then fall off.

Seed Capsule Formation

About 2 weeks after flowering, the seed capsule grows to maturity. It stops growing but remains green for a while. In about 3 more weeks, the seed capsule dries and the seeds will rattle in the dried capsule. They are ready for harvest at this stage or will soon fall to the soil as the seed capsule deteriorates.

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