Glaucium flavum (yellow hornpoppy, sea-poppy or yellow horned poppy) is a summer flowering plant in the Papaveraceae family, it is native to Northern Africa, Macronesia, temperate zones in Western Asia and the Caucasus, as well as Europe. The plant grows on the seashore and is never found inland. All parts of the plant, including the seeds, are toxic. It is classed as a noxious weed, in some areas of North America, where it is an introduced species. It is grown in gardens as a short-lived perennial but usually grown as a biennial.
It has thick, leathery deeply segmented, wavy, bluish-grey leaves, which are coated in a layer of water-retaining wax. The sepal, petals and stamen have a similar structure and form to the Red Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), except the sepals are not hairy. It grows up to 30–90 cm (12–35 in) tall, on branched, grey stems. It blooms in summer, between June and October. It has bright yellow or orange flowers, that are 7.5 cm (3.0 in) across. Later it produces a very long, upright, thin, distinctive horn shaped capsule, which is 15–30 cm (5.9–11.8 in) long. It is divided into two chambers, which split open to reveal the seeds.
It was first published and described by Heinrich Johann Nepomuk von Crantz in 'Stirp. Austr. Fasc.' (Stirpium Austriarum) vol.2 on page 131 in 1763. The species epithet flavum is Latin for yellow and indicates its flower colour.
G. flavum was verified by United States Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Service on 25 May 1995, then updated on 9 May 2011, and is an accepted name by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Distribution and habitat
It is found in North Africa, within Macaronesia, Canary Islands, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. Within Western Asia it is found in the Caucasus, Georgia, Cyprus, Egypt (in the Sinai), Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. In eastern Europe, it is found within Ukraine. In middle Europe, it is in Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and Slovakia. In northern Europe, in Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and United Kingdom. In southeastern Europe, within Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Slovenia. Also in southwestern Europe, it is found in France, Portugal and Spain.
It produces an orange foul smelling sap, if cut open. All parts of the plant, including the seeds, are toxic, and can cause a wide range of symptoms including brain damage (if eaten), and respiratory failure, resulting in death. It is listed of the FDA Poisonous Plant Database since 1959.
It is referenced in various poems;
A poppy grows upon the shore,
- Bursts her twin cups in summer late:
Her leaves are glaucus-green and hoar,
- Her petals yellow, delicate.
She has no lovers like the red,
- That dances with the noble corn:
Her blossoms on the waves are shed,
Sea Poppies: Amber husk fluted with gold, fruit on the sand marked with a rich grain,
treasure spilled near the shrub-pines to bleach on the boulders:
your stalk has caught root among wet pebbles and drift flung by the sea and grated shells and split conch-shells.
Beautiful, wide-spread, fire upon leaf, what meadow yields so fragrant a leaf as your bright leaf?
Glaucine is the main alkaloid component in Glaucium flavum. Glaucine has bronchodilator and antiinflammatory effects, acting as a PDE4 inhibitor and calcium channel blocker, and is used medically as an antitussive in some countries. Glaucine may produce side effects such as sedation, fatigue, and a hallucinogenic effect characterised by colourful visual images, and as a recreational drug. For a detailed bibliography on Glaucine and Glaucium flavum see: National Agricultural Library (Glaucium flavum entry)
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S-(+)-Glaucine (C21H25NO4) is the main alkaloid component in the grass of yellow horn poppy (Glaucium luteum L., syn. Glaucium flavum Crantz) of the Papaveraceae family
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