Every Wednesday, I hope to find a new ‘weed’ to investigate. My only criterion will be that I will not have deliberately planted the subject of our inquiry. Who knows what we will find…..
Dear Readers, I’ve been writing the Wednesday Weed for more than three years now and I’m starting to notice trends and patterns.In East Finchley, and in north London generally,there has been a mass breakout of the delicate Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica), and I could not be happier. This butter-yellow flower is a favourite with pollinators such as hoverflies, and is rather less of a bruiser than the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) that was spotted round the corner in 2015.
As a truly ‘wild’ plant, Welsh poppy is designated as Nationally Scarce, and in Great Britain is found only in shaded rocky places in the hills of Wales, South West England and Ireland. However, it is a regular garden escapee, and seems to prefer the crevices at the bottom of walls that remind it of its wild habitat. It is often spotted with greater celandine and yellow corydalis in these parts – what is it about yellow flowered plants that make them such adventurous ‘weeds’ I wonder?
You might have noticed that the Welsh poppy is a member of the Meconopsis, the same genus as the Himalayan blue poppy, which also loves rocky places. There is some debate about this, as the Welsh poppy is the only member of the group that lives outside of the Himalayas. No doubt the botanists will continue to debate this one for some time to come. The word ‘Meconopsis’ means ‘like a poppy’ from the Greek Mekon (poppy) and opsis (like). And here is a blue poppy, so that you can compare and contrast. My fellow blogger Squirrelbasket has written a great post about the naming of poppies here, well worth a read.
Although it doesn’t just grow in Wales, the Welsh poppy is very much associated with the country, and it is the emblem of Plaid Cymru, though at first glance you might mistake it for that other flower that is so much part of Welsh culture and heritage, the daffodil. One piece of folklore about the plant is that it doesn’t flourish away from Welsh soil. You might think that the Welsh poppies popping up all over East Finchley give the lie to this belief, but actually, studies have shown that these plants descend from ancestors from the Pyrenees, so perhaps there’s something to it after all.
I spent some time looking for medicinal uses for this plant. In ‘A Druid’s Handbook’, Jon G. Hughes reports that the Welsh name for this poppy is llsiau cwsg, or herb of sleep. However, it was used externally for skin complaints, as it was believed to be poisonous. All poppies are toxic to some extent, but I suspect you’d have to really work at it to do yourself a damage with a Welsh poppy.
I have also been doing some investigation into the palatability of Welsh poppies – after all, poppyseeds are a common ingredient in many cuisines. There is a wonderful blog by Tortoiselady who occasionally feeds the plant to her reptiles, but I have not found any mention of human uses. Tortoiselady also has very useful information on hedgehogs and birds, and she is definitely a person after my own heart. At the moment the garden is more of a sanctuary for damaged and unwanted weeds, plus frogs and fledgling starlings. I wonder if I could start a frog sanctuary? There must be some poor, elderly frogs in need of a retirement home.
One of these days I fully intend to create a bigger animal sanctuary for all kinds of damaged and unwanted creatures, but please don’t mention this to my husband. I haven’t broken the news to him yet.
I should point out that Welsh poppy comes in a rather attractive apricot colour too.As you know, I love to finish off with a relevant poem. This one, by Mavis Gulliver, made me cry. I am reluctant to just cut and paste the work of living poets because, after all, this is how they earn their living, and I’m sure it’s also in breach of copyright. So please click here to read about how plants can evoke emotion, and memory. The poem is called ‘Breaking Dormancy’.
Photo One (Blue Poppy) – By Photo by and (c)2008 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man). Co-attribution must be given to the Chanticleer Garden. – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3525054
Photo Two(Plaid Cymru logo) – By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31867052
Photo Three (Orange poppy) – By Svdmolen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
All other blog content free to use and share non-commercially, but please attribute, thank you!