Flowers, perhaps more than any other part of the natural world, are fascinating because of the many layers of meaning people have shrouded them in throughout history.
There is a whole sub-category of etiquette surrounding which flowers are appropriate to give at what times, and to whom. The unending rules surrounding something so simple as a flower can be dizzying.
Another aspect of flower lore concerns the designated flowers for each month of the year. What many people don’t realize is that most months actually have two official flowers. Last year, we looked at one of August’s official flowers, gladiolus. The other is the poppy.
Poppies are vibrant flowers with large, round, papery petals. Poppy plants produce one flower per stem, each with four to six petals, depending on the species. They come in a wide variety of colors, including white, pink, orange, yellow, and most commonly red, and often have dark centers.
Poppy seeds are a popular culinary ingredient, most often used to top pastries. Opium poppies also contain compounds that are used to produce morphine and codeine, two powerful pain-relieving drugs. In ancient Egypt, doctors prescribed poppy seeds to patients as a pain reliever.
Poppies are rich in symbolism, having long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death, due both to their deep red color, resembling blood, and their opiate properties. Poppies were used as offerings to the dead in ancient Greece and Rome, and were sometimes said to be a symbol of resurrection.
Today, poppies are most often associated with honoring soldiers who lost their lives at war, and are worn on Memorial Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada.