Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a small dicotyledonous plant from the Papaveraceae (poppy) family.

Papaver aculeatum (known as the Orange Poppy in English, Doringpapaver in Afrikaans or sehlohlo in sisotho), is a small herb of around 0.1 – 1.5 tall depending on the surrounding geology. It may be found in rocky places, among scrub, in dry riverbeds and on cliffs, often proliferating in areas of disturbance.  P. aculeatum grows at altitudes of 1600-2950 m A.S.L. and is generally widespread throughout S.A. Spp. Of the Papaver genus are all moderately frost tolerant. This small herb is interesting as it is the only poppy originating from the Southern hemisphere.

 This is not a herb that one would generally hand-pick without gloves as it is covered in stiff yellow spines and fine hairs and could result, if nothing else in itchy hands. The leaves are approx. 120-130 mm in length and are deeply lobed, with the toothed margins appearing almost tattered.  The flower, although simple in design is an attractive light-burnt orange, flowering from October through to March. The fruit are tiny (10-20 mm wide), ribbed and oval.

Human uses

P. aculeatum, distant relative of the Opium Poppy, are used as a pot herb by the sotho culture, having been grown from seed.

The Papaver genus is synonymous with several illicit activities but also has many beneficial medicinal uses. I find that a wealth of information on this interesting genus may be found online.

Author: Damien Coulson