Papaver argemone

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaPapaveraceaePapaverPapaver argemone


An annual of arable crops, usually found on field edges and in unsprayed corners, often in small numbers. It is most frequent on light sandy, gravelly and chalky soils. Rarely, it occurs on waste ground. Lowland.



World Distribution

As an archaeophyte P. argemone has a European Southern-temperate distribution; it is widely naturalised outside this range.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Arable and horticultural (includes orchards, excludes domestic gardens)

Light (Ellenberg): 7

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 6

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.7

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.7

Annual Precipitation (mm): 759

Height (cm): 45

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 874

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 48

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 6

Atlas Change Index: -1.79

Weighted Changed Factor: -17

Weighted Change Factor Confidence (90%)


JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Papaver argemone L.

Prickly poppy

Status: not scarce


The normal habitat for this species is arable field margins, mainly on poorer, light, sandy and calcareous soils in south and east England. It also occurs rarely on open waste land and railway banks in lowland areas. It is commonly associated with P. rhoeas, and occasionally with P. dubium or P. hybridum. Other common associates include Anagallis arvensis, Anthemis cotula, Aphanes arvensis, Chaenorhinum minus, Euphorbia exigua, Fumaria densiflora, F. officinalis, Galium aparine, Lamium amplexicaule, Legousia hybrida, Matricaria recutita, Myosotis arvensis, Petroselinum segetum, Polygonum aviculare, Reseda lutea, Stellaria media, Valerianella dentata and Viola arvensis.

An annual which germinates in autumn and spring, it is best represented in autumn-sown crops. The flowers are normally self-pollinated. In conditions where there is strong competition from other species, few seed heads develop. Seed dispersal is rather poor as many seeds remain in the capsule after ripening. Seed is capable of retaining its viability in the soil for some time, and germination is sporadic, being dependent on the erosion of the seed-coat.

This is a lowland species which in Britain has become rare in the south-west and occasional in most other areas of its former distribution. Although it is still locally frequent in the south and east, it is normally found in small numbers. It is susceptible to many herbicides, including some of the earliest invented. It is unable to tolerate competition with heavily fertilised modern crop varieties, and is usually found at the edges of fields or in unsprayed corners.

It is found throughout lowland Europe (Jalas & Suominen 1991) and eastwards to the Caucasus, Iran, Palestine and Cyprus, but it is generally introduced and of casual occurrence in the north, where it reaches Scandinavia. The centre of origin is possibly in the eastern Mediterranean. 

For an account of the ecology of this species, see McNaughton & Harper (1964a).


A. Smith