Isaac Werner loved the wild flowers that covered the prairie with color every spring. As for the prickly poppy, which blooms from June through September, he made no mention of it in his journal.
The delicate, ruffled petals of the prickly poppy, and the silvery green of their prickly leaves are rather pretty, but having them in a pasture is a nuisance. Cattle will not eat them, and they will crowd out other desirable plants.
The plants can grow from 1 to 5 feet tall and are a common plant on the prairie, growing most abundantly in sandy soil. The presence of these poppies in pastures is often indicative of overgrazing. They may also be found in flood plains and in locations where the soil has been disturbed.
My father hated prickly poppies. In the summers, when I was not in school, he would find jobs for me to do around the farm. To show just how much he wanted to rid the pastures and field edges of these plants, one summer he proposed paying me twenty-five cents for every prickly poppy I pulled, a more generous payment than I received for other tasks. However, to collect my bounty I had to show the roots dangling from the plant in order to prove that I had pulled the entire poppy so that it would not grow back from roots left in the soil. That was difficult and uncomfortable work, and I don't remember collecting much money that summer.
|Two undesirable pasture plants|
My father nearly eradicated the plants, for he would pause to pull them up by the roots whenever his path crossed one of the poppies.
Native Americans, however, valued the bright yellow sap as a dye for arrow shafts and as a wart removal. They crushed the seeds to treat burns, cuts, and sores, and they also boiled the plant and used the liquid to treat sunburn.
To learn more about Kansas Wildflowers & Grasses, you may visit the Kansas State University Library at http://www.kswildflower.org/flower maintained by Mike Haddock, who is credited for some of the information in this blog.