Papaver somniferum (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Papaver somniferum L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 1: 508 (1753).


  • Papaver officinale C.C. Gmelin (1806),
  • Papaver hortense Hussenot (1835),
  • Papaver setigerum DC. (1893).

Vernacular names

  • Opium poppy, mawseed (En).
  • Pavot officinal (Fr)
  • Thailand: ya pi (Akha), ya fin (Lahu)
  • Vietnam: cây thuốc phiện, cây anh túc.


The origin of P. somniferum is not clear; suggestions range from south-western Europe to central Asia. No truly wild populations of P. somniferum have been found. The main areas of cultivation are in India, China, Turkey and the Balkans. In South-East Asia, it is grown in the "Golden Triangle" (Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Laos) and Vietnam.


Opium is traditionally used for its astringent properties in the treatment of coughs and diarrhoea, and also to relieve pain and to treat insomnia.


  • An annual erect herb, 50-150 cm tall.
  • Medium and superior leaves sessile with an amplexicaul base, varying from obovate to ovate-oblong, coarsely crenate-dentate, not deeply incised, strikingly glaucous, glabrous.
  • Pedicel glabrous or hispid, petals 3.5-8 cm long, lilac with darker base, white (with or without a dark basal blotch), red (with or without a dark basal blotch) or variously marked, entire or variably deeply incised, flowers often double, stigma much broader than top of the fruit, mostly 8-15-rayed.
  • Fruit a globose capsule, 5-10 cm wide, with copious latex.
  • Seeds blue, black, yellow or white.

P. somniferum is an extremely variable and complex species. There is still disagreement about its intraspecific classification. It does not thrive in the per-humid tropical lowlands.

Selected sources

62, 63, 64, 97, 189, 193, 202, 265, 266, 287, 387, 555, 701, 813, 823, 900, 931, 1035, 1126, 1167, 1277, 1296, 1304, 1457.


Khozirah Shaari & M. Brink