Heroin Poppies question

Is it legal to grow Poppies, for their beauty - not their drug properties, in the US?

Wiki say maybe

For all practical purposes, yes.

You can buy poppy seed packets at most garden centers. A I understand it, it takes a LOT of poppies to produce a significant amount of opium, and it’s quite labor-intensive.

The DEA does not want you to grow Drugs

Are there non-opium poppies? I thought they all were potentially opium poppies.

There are poppies in the wildflower seed mix my city spreads on the medians each spring.

From Wikipedia:

We see whole fields of them over here in the Spring.

There are many species of poppy, in eleven genera, according to wiki:

The vast majority of those do not contain opium, at least not in any appreciable amount. Most sources mention that opium comes from the single species Papaver somniferum. I’m not going to bet that there aren’t some others, but anyway, the red “Remembrance Day” and the orange California poppy, for instance don’t contain opium in any significant quantity.

Since Tasmania.Aus started growing a major legal cash-crop of opium poppies (legal opiates have to come from somewhere), garden poppy seeds are no longer easily available in our shops. The USA does not like to buy legal opium from countries that have illegal opium, and as a result we have zero political tolerance for edge cases.

Also, I’ve read that American florists (like Aus) no longer use poppies, or poppy seed cases, and that restriction dates, I think, from the late 20th century, not from the earlier disputes. I’ve looked, but can’t find any references.

Great article (by Michale Pollan, no less) in the Atlantic, from 1997.

If you ever want to “legally” grow opium poppies, the author’s advice is to not read the article.

You can buy Papaver somniferum hybrids from a number of ornamental seed sources (some will just list the hybrid name and omit the fact that it’s P. somniferum).

Curiously, at least a couple firms say they can’t ship such seeds to West Virginia (this source says shipping is unavailable to WV and Canada).

I’ve never seen the straight species P. somniferum offered anywhere. Even with strains bred for maximal opioid content I suspect you’d need to harvest a sizable field in order to process enough for use.

The most commonly grown species of garden plants known as “poppies” are

“Oriental Poppy” Papaver orientale
“California Poppy” Escholtzia californica
“Corn Poppy” or “Flanders Field Poppy” Papaver rhoes
“Breadseed Poppy” or “Opium Poppy” Papaver somniferum

All of these are readily available in a multiplicity of cultivars from retail seed companies in the US. The common names are the ones used by flower seed companies. I’ve grown Opium Poppies. They are big flashy easy flowers. Generally flower seed companies don’t emphasize correct botanical nomenclature since most gardeners don’t care about that, but they are called Opium Poppies straight out. Note that California Poppies are not even in the same genus as Opium Poppies. There are many other garden plants called poppies (examples Matilija Poppy, Welsh Poppy) which are even more distantly related.

I grew something sold as Oriental poppy. Looking at Google images, it might have been open poppy. It was easy to grow with gorgeous large flowers, whatever it was.

Good read. Thanks!

I second steatopygia. Cracking read. Must investigate the author.


No, different species.Same genus. They are both showy.

Many years ago I visited England on vacation and went to the Chelsea Flower Show. I picked up a few packets of flower seed, among them an ornamental variety of Papaver somniferum. When it came time to go home, I decided to avoid any possible hassle with customs by dumping the poppy seed into another, differently labeled seed packet.

Naturally that mixed seed packet drew no attention whatsoever from the agent, who instead gave me the fisheye about another packet of seed. “Lupines?” he said, doubtfully. :smack:

Correction (this being GQ, and all):
First of all the author is Michael Pollan (not Michale).
Secondly, the magazine was Harpers, not The Atlantic Monthly (which is strange, because I don’t remember ever having a subscription to Harpers). I note, from the Wikipedia entry, that this was his first published essay.

So the poppy seeds I eat on my bagel or in my pastry are from the opiate-producing poppy?

Yup. Papaver somniferum is the Opium Poppy, and also the Breadseed Poppy

“I happen to know this is the Lupine Express…”