Wood Poppy

Last fall, a friend of mine gave me some peonies from her garden. While I was there, she also dug up another plant and gave it to me. She did not know the name, but told me to plant it in the sun, and that it had yellow flowers. I finally planted it in October, so nothing much happened after that. This spring, it emerged and grew into a mound at least 2 feet wide, with pretty oak-like leaves. Later it was covered with beautiful, bright yellow flowers. Once I saw the flowers, I was able to identify it as Stylophorum diphyllum or Wood Poppy. This plant is also called Golden Poppy or Celandine Poppy.

Wood Poppy is a “true” poppy, being a member of the Papaveraceae family. Native to Virginia, it is a wildflower that can be found growing in moist woodlands or along stream banks. Most sources recommend watering it every day, and planting it in a location that is moist, maybe even wet. Not knowing this, I did not pay any special attention to watering this plant, and it has thrived despite me. When it comes to sun, I have not done that correctly either. Part to full shade is the recommended location, but mine is closer to full sun than to part shade. Still, it is growing, blooming and looks great. Obviously, this plant can adapt to a variety of conditions.

Wood Poppy is a herbaceous perennial, meaning it will die back to the ground in the winter. Recommended for zones 4-9, it grows 12-18 inches tall and spreads about 18-24 inches wide.  The bright yellow flowers are 2 inches wide, with 4 petals, at the top of hairy stems about 18 inches tall. The stems contain yellow sap which is used as a dye by Native Americans. This sap can stain your clothes, so be careful. The flowers will appear in spring, and may repeat during the summer. Cutting off the seedpods may help to prolong blooming. In June, I cut back the entire plant by about 1/3. It has since grown back, and bloomed again.

Propagation is by dividing the root ball, which should be done every 3-5 years. After the flowers are spent, hairy green seedpods appear. Seeds can be collected from these pods, and planted directly outside in the fall. Wood Poppy is easy to transplant, and some say it will grow invasively if left alone. Others, like myself, have not had any problem with excessive growth. The conditions in which it is grown have a lot to do with how much it spreads. If it is kept quite moist, it will spread rapidly by self-seeding. If it is not as wet as it would like, it will go dormant in midsummer and stop blooming.

Wood Poppy is not the favorite food of deer, but they will eat it. Luckily, there are no deer in my yard.  I hope to have this plant for many years to come. It adds a lot of color and the foliage is attractive too. It’s easy to grow and requires little maintenance. My kind of plant!

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One Response to “Wood Poppy”

  1. C. Tapner Says:

    I bought a wood poppy from the ecology park last year and planted it at the side of my house which gets minimal sun and is under an overhang. It grew huge and is now one of my favorite plants. Who would ever have thought that this plant was rare.

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