Originally native to southern Europe, North Africa and temperate parts of Asia, this annual plant has spread north, finding its way into any disturbed ground of Southern Scotland, such as waste sites, cultivated fields, fallow pasture, and also railway cuttings, though herbicides have reduced its numbers. It likes a dry, nutrient rich soil. Not so common in the North and West where other species of poppy have been more successful, it is a popular choice in the cultivation of wildflower meadows.
The flowers are 5-10cm across: 4 scarlet petals often with dark blotches near the base. Opium scented when fresh, but odourless when dried.
Its seed capsule looks like a pepperpot, hairless, round or egg-shaped. 1-2 cm long, and containing several dark red seeds. These seeds are edible, and can also be pressed to make a cooking oil.
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used this variety of poppy. Seeds have been found mixed with barley grains and the flowers are depicted in murals. Extracts taken from poppy have mild anaesthetic, analgesic and sedative properties.