Glaucidium Palmatum – Japanese wood poppy

It’s time to pull together my previous meanderings about this plant and try to write something serious about it. But first, here’s the time lapse:

16th May 2013

16th May 2013



19th May 2013


22nd May 2013

22nd May 2013

Let’s get the botanical stuff out of the way: Glaucidium palmatum is a native of the northern Japanese islands and is a rhizomatous herbaceoous perennial, first described in 1845. It’s in a genus of its own, with only the one species, and there are still arguments about which family it belongs to. So, botanically, it’s a bit of an outlier.

I acquired my plant two years ago, by which time it was probably two years old, and this chimes with the web-based advice that it takes about four years to establish itself and flower. It can take a lot longer, apparently. By sheer chance, I seem to have given it conditions that suit it – humous-rich damp soil with a bit of shade (it’s a woodlander, after all). I’m growing it in a bed beside the old mill – and there’s a good deal of brick fragment and lime mortar in the soil, though whether that is good or bad, I don’t know.

One of the reasons that the (few) nurseries offering it describe it as ‘rare’ would seem to be that it’s not at all easy to reproduce. Apparently it hates being disturbed (though I dug mine up by mistake, and it seems to have forgiven me) and its woody rhizomes don’t take kindly to being sliced up into separate plants. So it’s seeds or nothing. If you are going to try growing it from seed (I’m not – I’m useless where seeds are concerned), this discussion on the Scottish Rock Garden Club forum makes a good starting point. Take note of the wise words of Ian Christie, who runs one of the best gentian nurseries in Scotland, and knows all there is to know about raising things from seed.

Equally, you should take a look at this post by Jim Jermyn, whose retirement from Edrom nurseries I have long regretted, as he’s one of the best primula growers and experts around.

And finally, take a virtual trip to Japan and have a look at the wood poppy in its native setting.

I can’t yet add anything to the wisdom of the experts, as it’s early days for me with this plant. I did note somewhere that rabbits are partial to a snack of Glaucidium – that thought fills me with horror.

15 thoughts on “Glaucidium Palmatum – Japanese wood poppy

  1. Very nice indeed! Good job photographically tracking the bloom. I hope you won’t need an armed guard against those marauding rabbits. I did a little reading and clearly this plant would grow well in western Oregon so if you tire of it send it along okay, I’m here to help.

    • You are the seed genius, surely? If it sets any seed, I’ll reserve some for you. But, Linnie, isn’t it maybe a little bit on the dastardly pink side for you?

      • Seed genius? Not so much really so I doubt I could do justice to the seeds. Cuttings I sometimes have success with you know but not applicable here. As to the soft pink well it would be best in blue but it’s such an extremely pretty woodland plant — I wouldn’t kick it out of the flower bed for blooming pink, as the saying almost goes.

  2. Gorgeous. I’ve never come across it before. Reminds me a little of a hellebore. I can imagine how you’d feel if a rabbit every gets to it. Lets hope your local bunnies don’t have such exquisite taste in food. šŸ˜‰

    • It’s not unlike a hellebore – although leaves and flowers are a lot more fragile. I imagine it will die right back after flowering, and then I’ll have to remember where I put it!

  3. So you are growing successfully this stuff in your garden and then complain about roses being fussy? And demanding? I think you might have been with your feet soaked a little too long, man! šŸ˜‰
    I love this poppy and it grows amazingly quick, doesn’t it? It takes 4 years to establish and then only 4 days to grow and bloom.

    PS: that chinese website gives me the creeps.

    • Now it’s estabished (I hope) I don’t expect it to be fussy. I’m not intending to run around pruning and feeding and spraying against blackspot, and all the other time-consuming stuff that roses demand. Besides, I don’t have 130 specimens, unlike some people.
      I suppose the speed with which it grows and blooms is because it has to do everything before the leaf canopy of the trees shades it out.
      Anyway, that’s a Japanese website, not a Chinese one, but I agree it is somewhat…bold…

  4. And here was me thinking I was getting very specialised with my gardening. I am just waiting for the blooms of my meconopsis sheldonii to open for the first time, planted them last Spring. I will probably be bumping my gums about it, although I think at one time you mentioned not being so very fond of this one. Your Glaucidium palmatum looks a pinky blue on my monitor.

    • No, sheldonii is one of the greats, nothing against it at all. I look forward to your pictures and your description. So pleased it does with you. Glaucidium is closer to pinky-violet…your monitor needs adjusting; my picture was pretty accurate!

    • Lucky you, having a white one. As soon as I’m sure I can grow this successfully, I shall start looking for the white variety. Not easily found, though!

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