Corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) are also sometimes known as field poppies, Flanders poppies or corn roses. They are members of the large papaver family, and, like many poppies, have ornamental, medicinal and symbolic value. They should not be confused with Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy. First described by Linnaeus in the 18th century, corn poppies have been known and loved for many centuries.
Corn poppies grow up to 3 feet tall, with deeply dissected leaves. They are most notable for their scarlet blossoms, which feature four large, red petals and black centers. Opening from green, pointed buds that appear hairy or bristly, the flowers are short-lived, especially when cut for arrangements. When the petals drop, rounded green seed pods remain.
Corn poppies are native to Europe and Asia, where they grow in fields and other open areas. The seeds are readily dispersed and the plants become naturalized easily. Though native to the Old World, red corn poppies have naturalized themselves in the United States.
Over the centuries, red poppy flowers have sometimes been used to color wine. In some areas of southern Europe, the greens have been eaten as a vegetable. Syrups made from seeds and/or flowers were used during the Middle Ages and possibly even later for coughs and throat problems. Like seeds of other poppy varieties, corn poppy seeds are sometimes used in cooking. The 10th century Benedictine monk and herbalist, Aelfric, listed the corn poppy in his compendium of useful herbs.
The plants thrive in sun or very light shade and dislike being transplanted.