The Mexican Poppy, a visually striking yet ecologically troublesome plant, has its origins in Mexico. First documented in Ascension during the 1820s by visitors, this highly invasive species has since permeated the lower regions of the island and is progressively ascending to higher regions. Its unique method of reproduction—solely through seeds—poses a considerable challenge for containment efforts. The seeds can remain dormant for extended periods, thereby adding to the difficulty of control. The dispersal of seeds occurs through a variety of mechanisms, including farm equipment, water, vehicles, animal hides, hay, and various grains.
Each year the local community unites to eliminate the Mexican Poppy and other invasive weeds from critical turtle nesting beaches. Removing these plants makes it easier for adults to dig their nests and prevent hatchlings from being obstructed on their way to the sea. This year’s beach clean will be the 4th of November, so please save the date and help us tackle these invasive weeds.
The spiny leaves of Mexican poppy contain white, latex-based poisonous sap, making them toxic and bitter to grazers.
Culturally, Mexican Poppy is used as an infusion to relieve post-natal kidney pain. It was called “cardosanto” when the Spanish colonised Sonora and Argemone was taken as a laxative. In Mali the plant is used in tea to treat malaria. It is also used in India where the sap and sometimes the whole plant are used in traditional medicine to treat jaundice.
The Mexican Poppy is both beautiful and problematic. Its spread poses challenges for local ecology, especially turtle nesting beaches, but it also has cultural and medicinal uses. Understanding this complex plant is key to managing its impact effectively.