Poppy is the common name for any of the plants comprising the Papaver genus in the flowering plant family Papaveraceae.
Most poppies are found in the Northern Hemisphere, and several species of poppies are cultivated as garden ornamentals.
Poppies are herbaceous annual, biennial or short-lived perennial plants. Some species are monocarpic, dying after flowering.
In the temperate zones, poppies bloom from spring into early summer.
The plant can be over one meter (3.3 feet) tall with flowers up to 15 centimetres (6 inches) across.
It has lobed or dissected leaves, milky sap, often nodding buds on solitary stalks.
Flowers of species (not cultivars) have 4 to 6 petals, many stamens forming a conspicuous whorl in the center of the flower and an ovary of from 2 to many fused carpels. The petals are showy, may be of almost any color and some have markings. The petals are crumpled in the bud and as blooming finishes, the petals often lie flat before falling away.
The flower color of poppy species include: white, lilac, pink, yellow, orange, red, violet and blue.
The ovary develops into a spherical capsule topped by a disk formed by the stigmas. The many small seeds escape from pores beneath the disk when the capsule is shaken by the wind.
The Poppy is a symbol of:
• Restful sleep and recovery
• Consolation for a loss or death in the family
• Remembering the fallen of various wars and armed conflicts
• A lively imagination
• Peace in death
• Messages delivered in dreams
• Resurrection and eternal life
• Beauty and success
• Extravagance and luxury
Poppies have a long history in human civilization. They were already grown as ornamental plants since 5,000 BC in Mesopotamia.
They were found in Egyptian tombs and ancient Egyptian doctors would have their patients eat seeds from a poppy to relieve pain.
In Greek mythology, the poppy was associated with Demeter, goddess of fertility and agriculture.
People believed they would get a bountiful crop if poppies grew in their field, hence the name “corn poppy.” In this case, the name ‘corn’ was derived from korn, the Greek word for “grain.”
Opium, from which morphine, heroin, codeine, and papaverine are derived, comes from the milky latex in the unripe seed capsule of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). It grows wild in eastern and southern Asia, and South Eastern Europe. It is believed that it originated in the Mediterranean region.
Poppies are symbolic, and used to remember the Armistice Day of World War I, now known as Remembrance Day. Now it is celebrated in the Commonwealth for those who died in all wars.
Poppies today are sold as cut flowers in flower arrangements, especially the Iceland poppy, and commonly have a prominent place in gardens, borders, or in meadow plantings. They are probably one of the most popular wildflowers.
In Mexico, Grupo Modelo, the makers of Corona beer, used red poppy flowers in most of its advertising images until the 1960s.
In the 1970’s the American war on drugs targeted Turkish production of the plant, leading to a more negative popular opinion of the US.
Poppies used as emblems on tombstones symbolize eternal sleep. This symbolism was evoked in the children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which a magical poppy field threatened to make the protagonists sleep forever. A second interpretation of poppies in Classical mythology is that the bright scarlet color signifies a promise of resurrection after death.