White prickly poppyBy Znobia Wootan on August 12, 2011
I don’t know if anyone else has noticed but there is a wildflower valiantly blooming in this crazy Texas heat. On closer inspection the bloom looks similar to a poppy and the stem and leaves have the same bluish green tinge that other poppies have, but this Texas native is absolutely covered with prickles.
It is our very own White Prickly Poppy. It is covered with so many prickles that even the deer and cows leave it alone.
White Prickly Poppy, Argemone albiflora spp. texana, can be found from Northern Arkansas & Southern Missouri to Texas. In the southern & western parts of Texas a Rose Prickly Poppy can be found with blooms in shades of pink and lavender. Further south and down into Mexico the Mexican Prickly Poppy can be seen with its distinctive yellow blooms.
All varieties exude a yellow sap that has been used by Native Americans for many ailments. Records of its use date as far back as the Aztecs, when their priests would use the plant in their sacrifice rituals. The Comanche’s so revered the plant for its many uses that they made offerings to it during harvesting. The sap was used to remove warts, treat cold sores and other skin ailments. A concoction from the flower can be made to treat lung congestion from colds or flu.
The seeds can be used as a laxative or as an emetic to induce vomiting or make a mild sedative. A tea brewed from the entire plant can be used to treat bladder infections, prostrate pain or the throbbing pain of a migraine. A wash made from the tea can be used to treat sunburn or scraped skin. To produce both a euphoric and mild sedating effect the plant was smoked in important ceremonies. It should be noted however that as with many beneficial plants if not used properly they can be very toxic.
The seeds are the only nutritional part of the plant. They are an excellent source of food for quail and dove because not only do they have a high oil content, but this plant produces a large number of seeds each year which makes it a reliable and dependable food source.
Production of large quantities of seeds also makes it easier to establish in your native landscape. Large colonies can form in sandy or well drained sites.
White Prickly Poppy seeds contain as much oil as soy beans. During WWII the oil from White Prickly Poppy seeds was used as a fine lubricant. I don’t know if it was sold to the public but I might be doing a little bit more research to find out.
In the meantime, while enduring this searing heat, I will enjoy watching the pollinators visit my stand of White Prickly Poppy as they crawl across the three inch blooms that contain an abundance of pollen and just a taste of nectar.