Poppy Family — Papaveraceae
|Arctic poppy, Papaver radicatum.|
Herbs, as well as the rare shrub, make up this relatively small botanical family. Most species of poppy have large, showy flowers, and basal rosettes of hairy leaves.
General Information and Anatomy
All plants in this family exude a bitter, milky juice when cut – a defence against herbivorous animals. Poppies have played an important role in medicine for the past millennium; in particular, opium poppies. Powerful drugs, such as opium, morphine, and codeine are derived from a thick, whitish fluid that oozes out when the flowerheads are lacerated. Non-addictive drugs, such as papaverine – used in the treatment of circulatory diseases – and noscapine, a codeine substitute, are also obtained from this sap. A single genus occurs in the Arctic: Papaver.
Papaver contains species with large, usually bright, yellow flowers, that grow in variety of habitats. Keele's poppy, P. keelei, and the Lapland poppy, P. lapponicum, are difficult to differentiate as there are only subtle variations in the hairiness and shape of the leaves, and the colour of the acrid juice. A fourth species, P. cornwallisensis, also occurring in the High Arctic, is a dwarf plant with pale yellow, and sometimes white or pinkish-yellow, flowers. It prefers rather wet, gravelly areas.