This week we are talking about that floaty paper-like summer flower, poppies. There are many varieties of poppies, but the most common we see as cut flowers (as opposed to those used for opium ;D) are the Icelandic, Californian, and the common poppy. Icelandic have been bred to be red, pink, salmon, orange, and yellow, but they are naturally white. Californian poppies are  sunkissed orange and the common poppy is that iconic red poppy with a black center.

The common poppy became the symbol for remembrance after the great war, inspired by the poem “In Flander’s Field,” by John McCray. Here it is:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

While the red poppies recall the blood shed in the war, McCrae may also be bringing in the victorian notion that red poppies symbolize consolation, and/or the Classical idea that the bright scarlet hue symbolizes resurrection after death.

Poppies also are connected to Persephone through her mother, Demeter, who is said to have created the poppy because she could not sleep when she had lost her Persephone. This ties in nicely with Kate Greenaway’s catalog which sites white poppies symbolize “sleep, my bane, my antidote.”

Read more about poppies in ancient cultures here.  



Demeter Relief, 18th Century 

Demeter Relief, 18th Century 

Poppy Field Near Giverny , 1885, Monet

Poppy Field Near Giverny, 1885, Monet

Mary Simmons