Skip to main content

The Power of the Poppy

Every flower has its own unique meaning and uses. Most flowers symbolize a deeper meaning among cultures, while some have medicinal uses, make political statements or can be used in cooking. The poppy, however, meets all these uses. The poppy is a very interesting plant due to its many uses and meanings. 

More commonly, the red poppy plant symbolizes the remembrance of fallen soldiers. In the United States, this tradition began during World War I, after the trench warfare at Flanders Fields. Flanders Fields bloomed with poppies and the flower became a symbol of remembrance when Moina Michael, a YMCA worker during WWI, stumbled upon poet and serviceman, John McCrae's poem, Flanders Fields. The line in McCrae's poem that stood out to Miss Michael was "We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields." Miss Michael wrote her own poem stating, "We shall keep the faith" as a message to the fallen. Moina Michael began wearing the red poppy and soon after started selling the red poppy as a symbol of their promise to keep the faith with those who passed on. The red poppy is now seen as a symbol of remembrance in the U.S. and Canada, England, Australia, and New Zealand. While the red poppy is viewed as a symbol of remembrance, the white poppy symbolizes peace and many who wear the white poppy speak out against war, which has created controversy in politics over the years.  

The poppy has also historically been used in medicine. As with most medicines, when controlled and when following doctor's orders, the use of them is safe, and it is important to emphasize this when talking about the types of medicine the poppy is used in making. In 3400 B.C. in Southwest Asia, word spread about the effects and uses of the opium poppy. Overtime, more countries began growing the plant and was traded along the Silk Road, eventually making its way to China, which is when the Opium Wars took place. We now know the dangers of the drugs that the opium poppy can produce are and, in many cases, not only are the drugs illegal, but even growing the opium poppy is. The opium poppy is used in developing hard narcotics and highly-addictive pain killers and should only be taken if prescribed to by your doctor.  

On a lighter note, the poppy is also used in cooking. You might have eaten a poppy seed bagel at some point in your life? The seeds are taken from the dry pods in the opium poppy, though do not give any of the dangerous effects the opium poppy can give when used in medicine. In fact, poppy seeds can be a good source of vitamin B and minerals.  

Lastly, the poppy plant, is of course used in everyday gardening and floral design! Poppies come in a variety of color including but not limited to red, white, purple, pink, and blue. With so many color options, the poppy makes for a great addition to any garden or design as they are subtle and can easily grow in and adapt to most conditions. Just make sure they get plenty of sunlight! 

The poppy plant is a beautiful flower with what seems like infinite uses, whether they are good or dangerous. Poppies can be used in medicine, gardening and floral design, cooking, and has even been the center of some political controversy over the years. When using the poppy, make sure you're using it responsibly, safely, and in good purpose.