How to Tell Which Poppies Are Papaver Somniferum

Papver somniferum, often referred to as opium poppy, is just one of many poppy varieties. This particular variety has gained notoriety due to its chemical make up, which consists of morphine and codeine. The seeds of opium poppy are also often used in cooking and baking, perhaps the most popular use being a bagel topping. At first glance, Papver somniferum may look like any other poppy, but it does have its unique characteristics. A checklist can help you determine whether or not you have the notorious opium poppy on your hands.

Step 1

Measure the height of the plant from the base to its highest point. Papaver somniferum is typically between 3 and 5 feet tall when mature, which is much taller than other poppy varieties.

Step 2

Examine the pedals of the bloom. Papaver somniferum has four to eight pedals with the most common colors being white, pink, red and purple. If the bloom has more than six pedals, then it's almost certainly Papaver somniferum.

Step 3

Examine the center of the bloom. Papaver somniferum has eight to 12 long stigmas, which is more than many other poppy varieties.

Step 4

Examine the leaves on the stalk. Papaver somniferum typically have several erect leaves with serrated edges that clasp at the base.

Step 5

Examine the seed pod. Papaver somniferum seed pods are spherical with a flat top. They typically range in size between 1 and 1 1/2 inch, which is larger than most other varieties.

Step 6

Break the seed pod open once the bloom dies so you can inspect the seeds. The seeds should be small, oily and have a gray, black or blue color if they belong to a Papaver somniferum. If they are blue, then the plant is almost certainly a Papaver somniferum.