Papaver somniferum, also known as bread seed poppy or opium poppy, is as much revered for its wide array of beautiful flowers and nutritious, edible seed, as for the painkilling drugs made from the infamous resin that seeps from the plant as it grows. For the home gardener, papaver somniferum provides easy-to-grow spring color and produces large quantities of delicious seed for your spice rack.
The types of papaver somniferum are distinguished by the style of flower: singles, doubles, and an odd-looking strain called hens and chicks. All three types can reach five feet in height and diameter and produce a dozen flowers per plant, if given enough water, sun and space in the garden.
Singles have a single ring of large petals around a thick, central seed pod. Single somniferum poppies usually occur in shades of pink, purple, and white. Singles are said to have the best pods for drying and using in flower arrangements.
Doubles grow several sets of large petals and several more sets of smaller petals around a central seed pod. Doubles are usually seen in red, white and pink.
Hens and Chicks
Hens and chicks most often come in white, with double petals. They derive their name from the dozens of miniature seed pods that grow clustered around the large central pod, like chicks crowding around a mother hen.