Corn poppy: Most attractive weed

The unwanted plants at unwanted place and unwanted time are called as weeds. They grow in the cultivated plants or crop, make competition with them and become responsible for hate of farmers. But still few weeds are very attractive, eye catching; red poppy is one of them. The dark red petals of flowers in the spring attract the all nature lovers towards them and made it symbol of the memory of solders in World War.

The botanical name of this weed is ‘Papaver rhoeas’, in which papaver means milk refers to the white colored sap present in the plant body of almost plant of this genus; while ‘rhoeas’ means red refers to the dark red petals. It is generally known as common poppy due to its common appearance in Europe particularly in the Mediterranean climate of southern Europe. It is also known as ‘corn poppy’ because it is one of the most important weed in winter cereals and grains such as wheat, corn, oat etc and mentioned by single name ‘corn’.

Corn Poopy at road side
Corn Poopy at road side

Poppies are generally grow on disturbed land so can be easily found road side but there tolerance capacity to lime soil make them competitive to cultivated grain with reducing the crop yield. This weed has great reproductive capacity to produces large number of seeds. If there is any competition with grains such as wheat, this weed produces thousands of seeds.  These seeds can remain able to germinate in the soil for decades until disturbed. The climatic factors in Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean zone such as, temperature with clear sunlight, water and nutrients availability, length of day time are favorable for seed production and their dominancy. All these things make it most successful weed in agriculture.

Corn poppy in wheat
Corn poppy in wheat

Although lifecycle fits with most cereals, corn poppy generally flowers in the autumn but in case of cold weather it is in late spring so it can be seen as dominating the wheat. Sometime the height of this weed may shorter than wheat crop but its large, red flowers easily catch the eyes. It is observed that this weed can reduce the wheat crop up to 30 per cent. It has tolerance capacity with few herbicides, and similar to almost weeds, corn poppy has ability to flower and produce the seeds before crop harvesting time. The main yield loss is due to its competition with the crop for nutrients, water and sunlight.

There are certain limitations in biocontroling of this weeds such as, its milky sap and acrid tests of leaves keep it away from the grazers because that is mild poisonous to them. It cannot be used as trap crop to attract other insects which are pests in crops.

Corn poppy
Corn poppy

But finally, as Dr George Washington Carver said about the weeds, ‘Weeds are nature’s vegetables, nutritious and undeveloped food source’, corn poppy can also be utilized for few medicinal or food purposes.

About the Author
Kapilkumar is an Indian research fellow at Tel Aviv University. His academic background is of environmental science. He studied journalism at Pune University, India and completed his intern at Lokmat newspaper, one of the leading newspapers in Maharashtra state of India. Kapilkumar is interested in addressing the challenges relating to climate change by using the fields of journalism and environment together.
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