Eating my Poppies

blueiris24June 13, 2006

I know, poppies are supposed to be one of those plants that grow like weeds, but I've never been successful at it. This year I completely started over in a new area and they seem to be doing well, but every time they are getting a big bud on them, I find them eaten off by something! GRRRRRRRRRRRRR. I've never seen a rabbit in our yard, so I can't imagine they are the culprit. Any other ideas?

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shudavies(Zone 6a, CO)

All I can offer is sympathy. (When I read your title I thought it had to do with whether it was safe or not to eat the seeds of opium poppy, 'Papaver somniferum'.) Somebody more knowledgable than I may ask you what specific kind of poppy you are growing. Also if you find any scat from the varmint you might describe that as well.

I was pretty surprised to discover that deer had been grazing in my yard a couple of different times this late winter/early spring, but a neighbor who is also a hunter examined the 'evidence' that was left behind and said there's no doubt it was deer, coming through after dark and leaving before dawn.

But now after three years of trying and waiting, I finally got my first Prickly Poppy 'Argemone plieacantha' bloom; big white petals with a bunch of yellow stamens in the center, so it looks like an egg, sunny side up. I seeded for two years and got nothing the first year, and just one plant last year, which is the one that bloomed this morning. But this year I also have almost a dozen new seedlings, so I have high hopes for the coming years that they will reseed and naturalize in some buffalo grass of mine and a vacant lot next to me. I hope the deer don't like them!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 12:08PM
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blueiris24

Shudavies - LOL, after rereading my Subject Line that does sound like I was going down that road, doesn't it? We have a relatively small, fenced yard, so I know it's not deer. I haven't seen anything out there besides squirrels and birds, and am wondering if one of them could be the culprit. It's so frustrating.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 5:17PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Blue Iris,

What kind of poppies do you have? How big are they? Is just the bud being eaten or the foliage too? All the way to the ground? Do you have other perennials/annuals, and are any of them being eaten? Holes in leaves? Flower petals?

It is possible that you have a four-legged critter eating stuff that you're not seeing--they can manage to be amazingly invisible--but it could also be insects! If you do have rabbits around, there's a pretty good chance you'll find rabbit droppings near whatever they've been eating. It'll look like a bunch of small (1/4"?) round brown "marbles!" I'd make a bet, though, that it was either slugs or earwigs! Last year earwigs almost defoliated my rhubarb plant and were eating large holes in hollyhock leaves up to 3 feet above the ground! Other things had damage too. I verified that it was earwigs when I found them on the plants even in the daytime, but most of the major damage was done overnight when they come out. I got a small bag of soil insecticide granules and sprinkled a little around each plant that had damage and it really worked, but there were so many last year that I had to repeat it several times. I also put slug bait around some of the plants where I suspected slugs.

A couple weeks ago I planted a small Alpine Poppy that I got as a freebie in a pot with something else I bought, and after being gone a couple days I came back to find it had been eaten to the ground! I've also had some fairly minor damage to my rhubarb, hollyhocks, ornamental sage, and purple coneflowers this year, so I got my insect granules out and put some around each plant, and now the new foliage is coming out undamaged. I think I need to put a grave marker out by the poppy though! I think the crown was too badly damaged for it to come back. Luckily poppies are easy to start from seed. I don't know why there was such an invasion of earwigs last year, but, gratefully, there are only a few this year.

Last year, when I was still posting on the perennials forum, there was a long thread about how much damage earwigs could do. Considering how small they are (and how big rhubarb leaves are), it's absolutely amazing! Unfortunately slug and earwig damage looks very much the same--irregular shaped holes of varying sizes. With either you can lift lower leaves and look in the soil next to the plant to see if you can find them, and with slugs you can look for (shinny) slime trails, but if I'm not sure, I put out bait/poison for both of them. With the soil granuals, it only takes a few sprinkled around. It's the stuff that's made for spreading on grass with a spreader to kill soil insects that are damaging the grass. I got Bayer brand, but I think any brand would work. I just made sure it specified that it was effective for earwigs.

By the way, when I saw the post I thought you were wondering if you could eat the poppy flowers! Like nasturtiums and pansies! And---eating opium poppy seeds (P. somniferum) IS safe! To get the opium you need to refine the sap that comes out of the seed heads!

Also, if anyone's interested, there's a myth that if you eat poppy seeds (muffins, salad dressing, etc.) it will be detected in a drug test. Not true! I absolutely LOVE (Kroger brand) poppy seed dressing and could practically drink the stuff straight out of the bottle, so the last time I was drug tested (I'm a flight attendant!), I asked and was told that the drug tests they do nowadays are so sophisticated that eating poppy seeds would not cause a false positive. I know that's irrelevant to your question---unless you're planning to get your bugs and varmints drug tested---but I just thought you might be interested!

Give us a little more info about what you have and what damage you're finding, and maybe we can help more.

Happy (HOT) summer,
Skybird

    Bookmark   June 15, 2006 at 2:12PM
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blueiris24

They are (or rather, were) oriental poppies. They only took the big buds -- there is no problem with the foliage and I haven't seen anything else eaten in my garden. We haven't seen any scat, and we live in suburbia with lots of fences, so other than raccoons, squirrels and birds are about the only wildlife we see back there.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 12:53PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

If only the buds are disappearing are you sure you don't have some "two-footed critters" out in your garden when you're not looking (a/k/a kids!)? I don't know of anything--animal or insect--that would eat only the buds and leave the foliage alone.

Also, just in case you haven't heard this before, do you know that oriental poppies go dormant in summer when it gets hot. Since it's already HOT, I'm surprised your foliage still looks good, but don't worry about it when it starts to turn yellow and disappear. And don't try too "help" the plants by watering them more when they do go dormant. Just let them do their own thing. You will probably see more foliage growing in the fall when (IF) the temps cool again.

Good luck with your bud thief search,
Skybird

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 3:04PM
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blueiris24

Mystery solved -- I got up this morning and found the Squirrel Bandit with my poppy foliage in his hot little hands, eating the tops off whatever remained of my poppies......

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 10:48AM
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janet_weeks5_gmail_com

I've had the same mystery! The poppies are ready to bloom, bursting with potential, full of readiness to fulfill their full-petaled destiny, and then suddenly, mysteriously, the buds vanish, leaving only their stems behind. Until yesterday, one bloomed!! A lovely shade of pale yellow. The bloom lasted but a day. Now the flower is gone and the stem stands alone. The central portion of the flower cannot be found, but the petals are neatly arranged in a pot on the other side of the patio. My small garden is fully enclosed. No human could have done this. No insect or caterpillar. No child or cat or dog, snail, or toad. Could it have been a bird or squirrel?? Who would do such a thing?? And why?? I am relieved to know, it must be the squirrels. :)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 7:05PM
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duanen2_ymail_com

Sorry, but CAN you eat the leaves of a poppy flower plant?
We've got them scattered over our garden, and while we're eating the lettuces and radish and swede leaves I'm looking at the big luscious poppy leaves thinking, we SHOULD be eating those aswell.
I've tasted them, don't taste bad, actually taste quite nice.
Any ideas?
I've looked around but can't find anything definitive.
BTW: our poppies are blossoming. Absolutely beautiful. Only last for one day though. AWW!
cheers
thanks
duane p

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 3:56PM
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