Being a child of the month of Augustus, I came to wondering one day what a month named after a Roman Emperor would have for a flower. As it turns out, a rather interesting one; the poppy. Found on a number of continents, this abundant and delicate perennial has a somewhat morbid historic symbolism.
The poppy has represented sleep and death throughout the ages: Sleep for the opium extracted from the flower and death due to the crimson color of the red poppy. A poppy resting on a tombstone signifies eternal sleep. In China, the poppy represents the loyalty and faith between lovers, based on an ancient Chinese legend where a lover commits suicide in the midst of a tragic battle. In Egypt, poppies grace funerals and burial tombs. In Greek and Roman mythology, the poppy was an offering to the dead. Even in the Wizard of Oz, a field of poppies threatens to put Dorothy and her friends to sleep forever.
Today, the poppy continues to thrive in a number of societies and cultures. The poppy is the state flower of California. In Great Britain, the poppy is used in remembrance of all who died during World War I. In Canada, the flower is used on Remembrance Day (Poppy Day) for the same reason. The poppy is an emblem of the men and women in the U.S. armed forces, particularly the U.S. Marine Corps, who have laid down their lives in defense of this nation. Due to prolonged trench warfare in France, a number of areas came to be collectively known as Flanders Fields. These battlegrounds claimed over eight million souls.
The effects of constant bombardment and churning of the earth? Fields growing with thousands of poppies.
Different varieties of poppies are used for seasonings in food, medicinal purposes and heath tonics. Poppy tea is consumed for its calming effect. The poppy can be used to flavor bread and pastries. It is said water made from poppies can remove wrinkles and freshen the skin.
The poppy is a very hardy and easy to cultivate flower. They will bloom for years and are available in a great many colors and varieties. With such a rich and dramatic history, it seems impossible that the poppy is considered a weed in certain parts of the world. But, if you want to give a gift of remembrance, brew relaxing tea, or simply get someone started on a thoughtful and stunning garden, then the poppy is the flower for you
photo by Evgeni Dinev