Hobart farmer accidentally grows restricted pharmaceutical poppies for wedding season

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When Kate Dixon planted a field of pink poppy seeds, she had no idea it would result in a drug task force tearing up her garden.

Mrs Dixon runs a commercial flower farm on the outskirts of Hobart, supplying local florists with seasonal and perennial flowers all year round.

Every spring her yard comes alive with bursts of colour, interspersed with Australian native and South African flowers.

Nestled in a corner of her yard was a new flower for 2022: a crop of what she thought were frilly pink poppies.

Imagine her surprise when it was Tasmania’s Environment Department – not a blushing bride – who was interested in her flowers.

“I got an unexpected call from the department saying they had seen some of my photos on Instagram and suspected they were restricted poppies that you needed a license to grow in Tasmania,” Ms Dixon said .

“I only grew them for weddings. I had absolutely no idea.”

Seeds of doubt

Ms Dixon said she bought the seeds from a registered Australian seed supplier.

An officer from Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment came to Ms Dixon’s farm to inspect the flowers this week and send samples for testing.

A decimated poppy plant
Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment is removing about 50 restricted poppy plants.(Provided by: Kate Dixon)

It revealed that Mrs. Dixon had inadvertently planted two restricted species of poppy, viz Papaver somniferum and Poppy leaves.

These poppies are grown commercially in Tasmania under tight restrictions to extract the alkaloid material they contain, including morphine, thebaine and codeine for use in medicines.

The department removed 50 of the plants from Mrs Dixon’s yard this week.

Mrs Dixon said she was shocked and she feared others may have accidentally fallen into a similar trap.

“I have seen many of these poppies in backyards and they are a favorite in the cottage garden,” she said.

“It’s a very, very tightly constrained crop. And yes, in the wrong hands with the wrong intent, it would be really dangerous.”

The poppy patch after removing the poppy
Not much was left of Mrs Dixon’s poppy patch after the authorities went through.(Provided by: Kate Dixon)

A spokesman for the department said it was taking an educational approach to first-time offenders.

“The department appreciates the assistance of the property owner,” they said.

“Where banned poppies have been found in garden settings in the first place, our preferred approach is generally education, awareness and engaging with the owner.”

It is an offense to grow poppy varieties containing various alkaloid compounds in Tasmania, however some ornamental varieties can be grown in the state.

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