It is almost a week since Remembrance Day so I was taken aback to be asked “Why do poppies represent the end of the war when they flower in summer and the end of the war was technically winter?” Why, indeed? Poppies are not indigenous to South Africa, although a number of gardeners sow the traditional red poppy seeds in the hope that they will bloom at this time of the year. In my own garden self-sown Opium Poppies (Papaver somniferm) begin to bloom a few days before the annual Remembrance Day parade.
We must all be familiar with that moving poem In Flanders Field by John McCrae that begins with the words:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place …
Seasons notwithstanding, the crimson poppy has become associated with the armistice – largely due, it is widely acknowledged, to the popularity of McCrae’s poem. As Corn Poppies (Papaver rhoeas) are pioneer plants, they were among the first plants to colonise the churned up battle fields – surely providing a wondrous sight in contrast to the destruction wrought on the landscape by war. The sale of artificial poppies have benefited war orphans, ex-service men and women and their families over the years.
Artificial poppies are more robust than real ones, which easily wilt and fall to pieces when cut.
The artificial ones for wreaths can be fairly elaborate.
While the ones generally worn on one’s left or right shoulder come in a standard form and are made from a combination of paper and plastic – this one has been pinned to a piper’s kilt for practical reasons.
These poppies have come to symbolise hope and gratitude.
Interesting information can be found at:
Interesting, Anne! That poem always makes me want to weep. It is so intense and sad.
It is a very moving poem that never loses its ability to evoke a strong emotion.
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Thank you for your comment.
Always love your writing
The symbolism is sobering; hope and gratitude. I listened to the BBC’s coverage leading up to the 11th and Remembrance Day events. Very moving memories from the descendants of the fallen. The loss of life impacted so many families. Lest we forget!
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Another new learning for me, the part about being “the first plants to colonise the churned up battle fields.” And I agree, it must have been a wondrous sight.
I would love to see fields of red poppies.