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Prickly Poppy

Prickly Poppy

Prickly Poppy

prickly poppy, (genus Argemone), also called argemony, genus of approximately 30 species of North American and West Indian plants (one species is endemic to Hawaii) belonging to the poppy family (Papaveraceae). Prickly poppies are cultivated as garden ornamentals but frequently become troublesome weeds when growing wild. Some species have become naturalized in arid regions of South America, Asia, and Africa. They were an important source of drugs in pre-Columbian Mexico, and parts of the plants are still used by herbalists to treat a number of ailments.

Prickly Poppy

Most prickly poppies are annuals or perennials and range from 30 to 90 cm (1 to 3 feet) in height. The plants are bristly stemmed with lobed spiny leaves. The showy flowers are typically white or yellow and have wrinkled petals and a ring of numerous stamens. In bud the three sepals end in hornlike spines. The prickly fruits are many-seeded capsules. The plants characteristically exude white, yellow, or orange latex.The United States has 15 species of prickly poppy, with at least one species in every region of the country except the Pacific Northwest. Mexican prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana) is found along the east coast from New England to Texas and less frequently inland. Crested prickly poppy (Argemone polyanthemos) is found in the Great Plains from the Dakotas to Texas. Most of the other species occur in the Southwest from California to Texas and northward to Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.

The white prickly poppy exudes a yellow latex that Native Americans use for many different ailments. Aztec priests would use the plant in sacrificial rituals. The Comanches held the plant in such high regard that they would make offerings to it during harvesting. They would take the latex and use it to remove warts, treat cold sores and other skin problems. A concoction could also be made from the flower to treat congestion from the cold or the flu.Young Mexican prickly poppies are often mistaken for thistles because their toothed and prickly leaf margins give them a thistle-like appearance (Figure 2). One recognizable difference is that Mexican prickly poppy exudes a yellowish milky sap when its stem is broken, while thistles do not. Another difference is that Mexican prickly poppy flowers are relatively large and yellow with 4 to 6 petals (Figure 3), while thistles have inflorescences composed of many small flowers. Like thistles, Mexican prickly poppy reproduces only through seed production. Its seeds are enclosed in a relatively large spiny capsule (Figure 4). Approximately 400 seeds can be produced in one capsule. (Source: edis.ifas.ufl.edu)

 

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