Wild poppy.

Wild Poppy

The common poppy is a beautiful red flower that grows wild in most of Europe.

Wild poppy.

Wild poppy (Papaver rhoeas) in Hungary.

In Europe wild poppies are considered to be weeds that grow in cultivated fields — sometimes as a result of neglect. Even though wild poppies are considered to be weeds people have found uses for them among other things as food coloring. Also various parts of the wild poppy plant were used as folk medicine and even eaten although they are not always safe to eat.

Wild poppy fruit.

Because of the delicate beauty of the poppy flowers, and their tendency to grow in places somewhat undisturbed by humans, at least temporarily, poppies have always inspired poets and stirred up deep emotions, thus the poppy flower is the subject of many poems.

In Canada, and other countries of the British Empire, the most widely known poem that uses the symbol of the poppy flower is “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. In that poem the powerful image of the poppy flowers is used to show a vivid picture of the site of a recent battle where the former battlefield became the grave site of the fallen soldiers. The association between war and increased wild poppy growth was known since much earlier times, but the vivid depiction in McCrae’s poem stuck.

Poppy collection box.

A poppy collection box for remembrance day in Canada.

It is now so deeply ingrained in the culture that the poppy flower has become a symbol of blood spilled in the battlefield and the lives lost to war. Because real poppy flowers are too delicate to handle and wear, artificial poppy flowers are worn as a lapel pin before Remembrance Day as a sign of respect.

Further Readings:

Papaver rhoeas on Wikipedia.
In Flanders Fields on Wikipedia.
Remembrance poppy on Wikipedia.
Last updated: November 11, 2014

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