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Feature Expedition

Flora of Britain and Ireland: Papaveraceae

SpecimensRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Papaveraceae or the poppy family can be found across the northern hemisphere in temperate and subtropical climates. Many species have striking brightly coloured petals to attract their pollinators. In this expedition we will be exploring the Papaveraceae of Britain and Ireland.

Very few members of the family are native to this region. Most people in the British Isles will be familiar with Papaver rhoeas ‘Corn Poppy’ which has been naturalised here for a very long time. It thrives in disturbed soil and prior to the use of herbicides was a common site on agriculture land. In World War 1 it bloomed between trench lines and no mans land and has become the symbol worn on remembrance day.

One native species that you may be familiar with is Papaver cambricum commonly known as the ‘Welsh  Poppy’. It has soft bowl-shaped yellow to orange flowers 5cm across which can be found in damp rocky woodlands and on shaded cliff ledges. It has become extensively naturalised in gardens and riversides and urban structures such as roadsides, waste ground, pavements and it even emerges from walls!

The collections from Britain and Ireland held within the RBGE Herbarium are estimated to number over 500,000 specimens of cryptogams (algae, fungi, lichens and mosses), ferns, gymnosperms and flowering plants. In 2021 we began to increase our in-house digitisation capacity with the aim of completing the digitisation of its 3 million specimens in a 5-year programme (2021-2025). The next series of expeditions seek to complement this body of work by enriching the basic online catalogue records produced by the in-house digitisation team with specimen label data.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s extensive Herbarium numbers nearly three million specimens representing half to two thirds of the world's flora. It is considered a leading botanical collection, and every year many researchers from around the world visit to study our specimens.

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