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10 Neat Things About Poppies
by Dorothy Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

November 14, 2016

"In Flanders Fields the poppies blow."

1. Eternal Sleep.

To most of us, the red poppy is for remembrance but it has held many other meanings. Poppies symbolize eternal sleep, peace and oblivion, but they also symbolize eternal life, beauty and fertility. In Persian literature, the poppy is the symbol of martyrs, but it is also the symbol of people who die for love. Red poppies symbolize pleasure, white for consolation and yellow for success and wealth.

2. Poppies of the field.

Papaver rhoeas is the poppy of Remembrance Day. It is also known as the corn poppy, the rose poppy and the field poppy, not because it is cultivated (field cultivation is left to the opium poppy), but because it self-sows so readily and is often found growing amongst agricultural crops in Europe.

3. The Flanders poppy.

This is another name for the P. rhoeas, and it became the symbol for the fallen as a result of the poem, "In Flanders Fields", written by Canadian soldier and physician John McCrae from Guelph, Ontario. The poem was written on May 3, 1915, and was published in the British weekly, "Punch", in December of that year. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem after presiding over the funeral of his fallen friend. He noticed, as had others as early as the Napoleonic wars, how quickly the poppies sprang up around the graves of the dead.

4. Red and silver.

A red poppy was minted as part of the Canadian quarter in 2004. This was the first monetary coinage ever to appear in two colours.

5. The opium poppy.

Papaver somniferum is the opium poppy whose seeds are used for poppy seed cakes. It is not illegal to grow opium poppies in Canada.

6. Poppy seed ooze.

If you scar or scratch the green seed head of a poppy, it will ooze or bleed latex. If this scar happens to be on the seed head of P.somniferum, you will have found the source of opium, which has been used for millennia to ease pain.

7. Poppyseed oil.

P. Somniferum is also the source of poppy seed oil, a useful product used in cooking. It has no odour and a pleasant taste. Poppy seed oil is a constituent of varnish and oil paints, where is has been used for at least 1,500 years. It is still used, mixed with iodine, in medical radiology and, in areas where iodized salt is not available, it is used to prevent goiter. In fact, one intramuscular injection of poppy seed oil will deliver enough iodine to last up to three years. It is also used in cancer treatment. So, one wonders, why the Afghani crops are being systematically destroyed when this cash crop is so useful and not all evil?

8. Blue poppies.

Blue is one of the most sought after colours for the garden and nothing delivers blue like Meconopsis grandis, the blue Himalayan poppy. While this glorious plant is only poppy-like, it is a member of the Papaveraceae family. Indeed meconopsis means "poppy-like".

9. Blue pollen.

P. orientale produces blue pollen. The Flanders or field poppy has dark grey or green pollen.

10. Wood poppy.

There are over 120 poppy species, but one of the most unusual is the wood poppy or Celandine poppy. This is again not a true poppy; Stylophorum diphyllum is, nevertheless, a member of the family Papaveraceae. It is native to North American and can be found growing wild in eastern woodlands. It's a small herbaceous plant with a shrubby growth habit, bright yellow flowers and a vivid gold-orange latex in its stems.

It is a protected species in Ontario.

In Flanders Fields

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. - John McCrae

- Dorothy Dobbie Copyright© Pegasus Publications Inc.

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