The Shirley poppy is the name of a group of annual ornamental varieties from the Papaver rhoeas (European wild poppy). The specific epithet rhoeas comes from a Latin name for red, referring to the flower color of the species, although there are many cultivars in other colors.
There are more than 120 species of poppies in the genus Papaver of the Papaveraceae family. The Shirley Poppy was first produced in 1880 by Reverend William Wilks, pastor of the Shirley parish in England.
Wilks found a variant of the wild field poppy in the corner of his garden, where he adjoined cultivated fields. Through careful hybridization and selection over many years, he obtained a variety of poppies that ranged from white and pale purple to red and pink.
Unlike wild field poppies, he had no dark spots on the underside of the petals. In addition, a more comprehensive selection resulted in double and semi-double shapes and flowers with a contrasting color ring on the edge.