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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Papaveraceae (poppy family)

[= Fumariaceae]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Order: Ranunculales

There are about 41 genera and about 760 species, native mainly to the temperate regions of the northern Hemisphere but also extending down to Central and South America and to southern Africa. Four genera and six species are native to southern Africa, and four genera and nine species are naturalised. An additional eight genera and 19 species are cultivated in the region. The members of the family Fumariaceae has been included in the Papaveraceae.

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).



Papaver (poppies)

About 80 species, native to Europe, temperate Asia, Australia and Africa. Papaver aculeatum is the only indigenous species in southern Africa and there are also three naturalised species. An additional eight species are cultivated.




Three species, endemic to southern Africa



One species: Discocapnos mundtii, endemic to the Western Cape.



One species: Trigonocapnos lichtensteinii, endemic to Northern Cape and Western Cape.

Genera naturalised in southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI).




About 23 species, native to the Americas, the West Indies and the Hawaiian Islands. There are two naturalised species in southern Africa: Argemone mexicana (Yellow-flowered Mexican poppy) and Argemone ochroleuca subsp. ochroleuca (White-flowered Mexican poppy), both of which are declared Category 1 invasive plants in South Africa.


Eschscholzia (California Poppy genus)

About 12 species, native to North America. In southern Africa, the California Poppy Eschscholzia californica is cultivated in gardens and has also become naturalised as a weed.



About 23 species, native from the Canary Islands and Europe through to central Asia. Glaucium corniculatum (Red horned poppy) has been recorded as a garden escape in southern Africa. Glaucium flavum (Sea poppy, Horned poppy) is also cultivated in southern Africa.




About 50 species (mainly Mediterranean, extending to central Asia, also Atlantic Islands and one in tropical Africa. There are three species naturalised in southern Africa. Fumaria officinalis (Fumitory) is native to Europe and is cultivated in the region.

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002). The species name is provided for genera with only one recorded species cultivated in southern Africa.



Romneya coulteri (Matilija poppy)

Native to California.


Hunnemannia fumariiifolia (Mexican tulip, Mexican poppy)

Native to northwest Mexico.


Eomecon chionantha

Native to China.


Hylomecon japonica

Indigenous from eastern Siberia to Japan.


Chelidonium majus (Greater celandine)

Native to Eurasia.



Two species cultivated - Macleaya cordata (Plume poppy), originating from China and Japan, and Macleaya microcarpa, native to China.


Bocconia frutescens (Tree celandine)

Native to the West Indies and Central America.




Dicentra formosa (Dutchman's breeches)

Native to western USA and Canada.



  • Jordaan, M. 2000a. Papaveraceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 433-434. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  • Jordaan, M. 2000b. Fumariaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 308-309. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.