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Papaver and Spring Fever

By John Albers ; Updated September 21, 2017

Papaver is the genus name of the family Papaveraceae. It’s more commonly known as the poppy genus, containing roughly 100 species of poppy. All are known as frost tolerant species that grow naturally in temperate and moderate regions of Africa, Europe, North America, and Asia. Of them, Spring Fever is native solely to the coniferous forests of Northern Europe, an early blooming perennial that is often cultivated as a biennial thanks to its short life-cycle.


Spring Fever is actually a recessive subspecies of the Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule). It takes its name for the bright red petals it produces. This effect is enhanced by the fact that the Iceland Poppy is white. Growing naturally in the wild, roughly one Spring Fever will appear for every thousand Iceland Poppies, making them stand out in stark contrast. Though there is no definitive evidence to support it, it’s thought that Spring Fever takes its name after the seasonal emotional illness which can affect some people. In essence, the implication is that Spring Fever is somehow ill.


It’s commonly believed that poppies are illegal to grow in the US and Canada. This is half true. Poppies which can be used to produce opium (Papaver somniferum), are listed as a weed and are illegal to cultivate in any way. However, Spring Fever cannot be used to produce opiates and so is completely legal. Since they do bear some similarity to Opium Poppies, it could be difficult to convince law enforcement officials who’ve not brushed up on their botany.


The Spring Fever grows to a height of approximately one foot. It is composed of a single stem with a bulbous bud which eventually forms of blood red bloom. The flower itself is composed of five petals with a distinct papery texture that overlap to form a solid bowl. They produce a fragrance not unlike a rose, but much more faint. The tap roots are abnormally long, extending almost a full foot down, and generate angular, ground-creeping foliage with feathery edges up to 6 inches in length.


All poppies contain a group of chemicals called alkaloids. It is from these alkaloids that opium is derived in opium poppies. While Spring Fever does not possess these same alkaloids, it contains another type of alkaloid called chelidonine. It is not yet known what this alkaloid does, though cursory studies have yielded evidence to suggest it could be used to propagate nerve growth. But in Spring Fever’s natural state, the presence of chelidonine makes every part of it extremely poisonous. It should be kept clear of any people or pets that might ingest it.


Spring Fever produces very small seeds, similar in size and shape to that of sesame seeds. These seeds do not often withstand the shock of transplanting, and so must be placed in their intended spot from the beginning. As they withstand cold exceptionally well, it is recommended to plant them during late autumn in well-draining soil that receives full sunlight for no less than five hours a day. Beyond keeping their soil damp to the touch, Spring Fever have no need of fertilizer or insecticides as they have no natural predators.


About the Author


John Albers has been a freelance writer since 2007. He's successfully published articles in the "American Psychological Association Journal" and online at Garden Guides, Title Goes Here, Mindflights Magazine and many others. He's currently expanding into creative writing and quickly gaining ground. John holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Central Florida in English literature and psychology.