As the name implies, the Mexican Poppy (Argemone subfusiformis) – also known as Prickly Poppy – originates in Mexico. It is thought to have been introduced into South Africa at the turn of the 20th century and is a common pioneer species throughout the country. These plants grow on waste land, in disturbed sites, and can be particularly troublesome on cultivated land. It is not surprising then, that it has been declared an invader plant in South Africa: all parts of the plant are toxic.

The prickly stems and leaves are a bluish-green or greyish-green in colour and are hairless. As you can see from the photograph above, the whitish-coloured veins give the leaves a variegated appearance. They are deeply serrated and have several sharp spines along their margins. The spiny capsules are generally oval, oblong or egg-shaped.

When the spiny flower buds open they reveal rather attractive flowers with six pale yellow, lemon or cream-coloured petals.

The flowers have a number of stamens surrounding a purplish stigma.

Flowering occurs mostly during spring and summer.

More detailed information can be found at:



31 thoughts on “MEXICAN POPPY

  1. pretty pictures of a pioneer pest plant!



    • Not at all – and nowhere near livestock either. They wouldn’t eat it by choice but the leaves break off easily and there is always the danger of them ingesting the seeds.


    • I imagine these plants were not brought in deliberately but came in with something else that was imported from elsewhere. I cannot help wondering if they too (like cosmos, blackjacks and khakibos) might not have entered the country via the importation of fodder for horses during the Anglo-Boer War.


  2. Thank you so much. I saw these plants a couple of years ago in a rather unkempt area near a reservoir in New South Wales, Australia. I was particularly taken with the colour of both leaves and flowers and did a pretty poor job of trying to recreate them in watercolour. Now I know their name.


  3. Pretty, but odd-looking leaves. Hopefully no kids touch them or wildlife either – it would be painful like getting a thistle spine in your finger while trying to pull it out of the ground/earth.


      • I don’t blame then – it’s be like being hit by a porcupine. My mom got a cactus spine embedded in her forearm while sh was watering them. She was short and it was a windowsill cactus garden. It was quite painful and she had to go on antibiotics as she had cellulitis in her legs and prone to flare-ups.


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