9. Argemone Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 508. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 225, 1754.
Prickly-poppy [a poppylike herb mentioned by Pliny]
Gerald B. Ownbey
Herbs or subshrubs , annual or perennial, caulescent, glaucous, from transitory or persistent taproots; sap white to orange. Stems leafy, branching. Leaves sessile; basal rosulate, cauline alternate; blade unlobed or commonly shallowly to deeply 1×-lobed; margins dentate, each tooth terminated by prickle; surfaces glaucous, often mottled over veins, unarmed or prickly, glabrous or hispid. Inflorescences terminal, cymose; bracts present. Flowers conspicuous, sometimes subtended by foliaceous bracts; sepals 2 or 3, unarmed or prickly, each with erect, subterminal, hollow horn tipped with prickle; petals 6, in 2 whorls of 3; stamens 20-250 or more; pistil 3-5(-7)-carpellate; ovary 1-locular; style short, to 3 mm in fruit; stigma 3-5(-7)-lobed. Capsules erect, 3-5(-7)-valved, grooved over sutures, prickly, rarely unarmed, dehiscing from apex ca. 1/3 length, valves separating from framework of vascular elements, to which persistent style and stigma remain attached. Seeds numerous, subglobose, minutely pitted, 1-3 mm, aril present. x = 14.
Species 32 (15 in the flora): North America, South America, Hawaii; introduced in other tropical and temperate regions of the world.
None of the North American species occurs in South America except for the pantropical weeds Argemone mexicana and, probably, A . ochroleuca . Argemone glauca is endemic to Hawaii. Three suffrutescent, perennial species are known from Mexico in Coahuila ( A . fruticosa ) and Chihuahua ( A . turnerae , A . ownbeyana ).
Most herbaceous species can be hybridized, but the F 1 plants are sterile when the parents differ in ploidy level. The F 2 generation, when achieved, consists mainly of plants of low vigor.
The alkaloids of Argemone have been studied extensively. F. S. Stermitz (1968) has suggested that the species fall into four groups (one with two subgroups) according to their alkaloidal properties, and that these groups coincide to a considerable degree with the informal species alliances suggested by G. B. Ownbey (1958). A full evaluation of the importance of alkaloidal content to Argemone taxonomy and evolution has not been published, but there is little doubt that it is highly significant.
The name Argemone intermedia Sweet (Hort. Brit. ed. 2, 1830) is encountered in several regional and local floras but is of uncertain application.
Ownbey, G. B. 1958. Monograph of the genus Argemone for North America and the West Indies. Mem. Torrey Bot. Club 21: 1-159. Ownbey, G. B. 1961. The genus Argemone in South America and Hawaii. Brittonia 13: 91-109. Prain, D. 1895. An account of the genus Argemone. J. Bot. 33: 129-135, 176-178, 207-209, 307-312, 325-333, 363-371. Stermitz, F. R., D. E. Nicodem, Wei C. C., and K. D. McMurtrey. 1969. Alkaloids of Argemone polyanthemos, A. corymbosa, A. chisosensis, A. sanguinea, A. aurantiaca and general Argemone systematics. Phytochemistry 8: 615-620.