Papaver Somniferum
Opium poppy

My Latin name is Papaver somniferum. The derivation of my name is not altogether clear; the word ‘papaver’ may have come from ‘pap’, meaning ‘bloated’, referring to my swollen fruit.

It may also be derived from the Celtic word ‘papa’, meaning porridge. In the past, the sap of my fruit was used to make a porridge that would soothe crying infants.

‘Somniferum’ links two Latin words, ‘somni’ (sleep) and ‘fer’ (to bring), so it literally means ‘bringer of sleep’: what we would today call a soporific. This has to do with my milky sap, which does, indeed, induce sleep.

In Dutch I am also called ‘slaapbol’, the word ‘bol’ referring to the hard, round seed capsule that forms after the poppy has bloomed.

In English they call me ‘opium poppy’ or ‘breadseed poppy’ and in French ‘pavot à opium’, because I am a member of the poppy family from which opium can be extracted.