PoppyA poppy is any of a number of showy flowers, typically with one per stem, belonging to the poppy family. They include a number of attractive wildflower species with showy flowers found growing singularly or in large groups; many species are also grown in gardens. Those that are grown in gardens include large plants used in a mixed herbaceous border and small plants that are grown in rock or alpine gardens.
The flower color of poppy species include: white, pink, yellow, orange, red and blue; some have dark center markings. The species that have been cultivated for many years also include many other colors ranging from dark solid colors to soft pastel shades. The center of the flower has a whorl of stamens surrounded by a cup- or bowl-shaped collection of four to six petals. Prior to blooming, the petals are crumpled in bud, and as blooming finishes, the petals often lie flat before falling away.
The pollen of the oriental poppy, Papaver orientale, is dark blue. The pollen of the field poppy or corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is dark blue to grey. Bees will use poppies as a pollen source.
Symbolism: Poppies have long been used as a symbol of both sleep and death: sleep because of the opium extracted from them, and death because of their (commonly) blood-red color. In Greco-Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead. Poppies are used as emblems on tombstones to symbolize eternal sleep. This aspect was used, fictionally, in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to create magical poppy fields, dangerous because they caused those who passed through them to sleep forever.
A second meaning for the depiction and use of poppies in Greco-Roman myths is the symbolism of the bright scarlet colour as signifying the promise of resurrection after death.
The poppy of wartime remembrance is Papaver rhoeas, the red flowered Corn poppy. This poppy is a common weed in Europe and is found in many locations, including Flanders Fields. Canadian surgeon and soldier, John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields on May 3, 1915, after witnessing the death of his friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer. The opening line of the poem vividly describes the image of the poppies blowing in the wind amongst the many crosses that mark the resting places of fallen soldiers. Thus the plant became a symbol for the dead World War I soldiers. In many Commonwealth countries, artificial, paper or plastic versions of this poppy are worn to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans and civilians in World War I and other wars, during the weeks preceding Remembrance Day on November 11. In the United States, it is common practice to wear "Buddy Poppies" (artificial, paper or plastic versions sold by the Veterans of Foreign War) during the weeks preceding Memorial Day, the last Monday in May to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans in the various wars; whereas Veterans Day on November 11 is used to honor "living" veterans. It has been adopted as a symbol by The Royal British Legion in their Poppy Appeal.
In Canada, poppies are distributed by the Royal Canadian Legion each fall prior to Remembrance Day. The design of the Canadian poppy consists of petals made of red plastic with a felt lining and black centre held on by a pin. In 1980, the Royal Canadian Legion formed a committee to decide the future of the poppy and it was decided that the centre should be changed to green to represent the green fields of France. This proved unpopular with the Legion membership and the design was changed back in 1986. Unfortunately a large quantity of green felt had already been purchased and it was decided to keep producing the green centres until the supply of felt was exhausted. It took until 2002 for the green felt to run out and the traditional black centres reappeared. Those who were unaware or had forgotten that black centres had been used in the design of the poppy from its introduction in 1921 until 1980 found the change somewhat controversial.
In New Zealand and Australia, plastic poppies are widely distributed by the Returned Services Association leading up to ANZAC day (April 25th).
The golden poppy, Eschscholzia californica, is the state flower of California.
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