Poppy Flower Meaning Complete Guide
Poppy flower meaning has existed since ancient times. Poppies have long been associated with death, repose and eternal sleep. The Egyptians included poppies at funerals and in burial tombs. In more recent times, poppies have been closely connected to fallen soldiers in WWI.
Poppy flowers also symbolize beauty, magic, consolation, humility, fertility, prosperity and eternal life. The bright petals of poppies are a stunning contrast in fields of green. The large, delicate petals are a unique feature of these beautiful flowers. Learn more below about the symbolism and history of this fascinating flower!
Poppies in Myth and History
The mythology and history of poppy flowers is unrivaled in the realm of flower symbolism. Poppies are steeped in folklore, symbolism and meaning around the world. The stories and legends of poppies below include both ancient and modern meanings for this fascinating flower.
Poppy Name Meaning
The word “poppy” is derived from the Latin word “papaver,” which means “to swell.” The name “poppy” is also associated with the Latin word “pappa” for milk. This is due to the thick milky sap exuded from cut stems of poppy flowers.
There are 120 species of poppies, each with their own genus name. Some of the interesting variants of poppies include the horned poppies (Glaucium), prickly poppies (Argemone), pygmy poppies (Canbya), wind poppies (Stylomecon), tulip poppies (Hunnemannia), desert bearpaw poppies (Arctomecon) and tree poppies (Dendromecon).
“Poppy” is also among the most popular names for girls in England and Wales. Poppy is also used as a girls name in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Poppy has also been the name of dozens of actresses and writers as well as fictional characters.
Poppy Meaning to the Greeks
The spiritual meaning of poppies exist in cultures around the world. The Greeks used poppies in the shrines of Demeter, goddess of fertility, and Diana, goddess of the hunt. The goddess Demeter was given poppies by the gods to help her sleep after her daughter Persephone was abducted. After this, poppies sprang from Demeter’s footsteps.
Clearly, poppies have been known as a sleep inducer for millennia. Poppy seeds are a natural source of opiates including opium, morphine and heroin. Accordingly, the drug morphine is named for Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep and dreams. The Roman god Ceres was also associated with poppy flowers.
Poppy Flower and the Egyptians
Interestingly, poppies can grow in less than ideal conditions. Therefore, they can be used when crop rotation is needed. The Egyptians may have been aware of this fact. In Egypt, poppy flowers were associated with Osiris, the god of both death and agriculture.
Accordingly, Egyptian artwork also includes poppies. As a symbol of eternal life, poppies were depicted on artifacts buried with mummies. Today poppies are still associated with the peak of life and the height of summer. Poppies are the birthday flower for August.
Poppy Flower Meaning in China
Poppies also represent the loyalty and faith between lovers. According to Chinese legend, a beautiful and brave woman, Lady Yee, was married to Hsiang Yu, a warrior with Herculean strength.
When Hsiang led his troops into battle, Lady Yee chose to follow him and stood by his side in every battle. During a long and arduous war, Hsiang’s army was surrounded and defeat was imminent.
Lady Yee tried to boost his spirits by dancing with his sword. The petals of the poppy flower reflect her spirit as she dances in the wind with the sword. When this attempt failed, Lady Yee committed suicide. A cluster of poppies sprang in full bloom from her grave site.
Poppy Meaning and World War I
In modern times, poppies have been associated with Flanders fields as an emblem of those who died in World War I. The battle fields in Belgium and France were often referred to as Flanders fields. During this time, poppies became a symbol of hope for British troops. The bright red poppies were common on an otherwise bleak war front.
In addition, bombing from artilleries and other weapons broke up the field, creating perfect growing conditions. Soldiers took comfort in the vibrant flowers, picking them and pressing them to send in letters home.
During WWI, a poem was written by a brigade surgeon who saw the red flowers growing on a destroyed battlefield. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae tended the dead and dying. John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field,” written in rondeau form (a style of French poetry) was inspired specifically by the funeral service of McCrae’s friend Alexis Helmer.
Some sources say that McCrae discarded his initial poem but that it was rescued by fellow soldiers. “In Flanders Fields” has now been used in countless memorial services. McCrae’s poem was eventually published in the Ladies’ Home Journal and in the London magazine Punch.
A woman named Moina Michael read McCrae’s poem and decided to create silk poppies to sell to raise money for returning veterans. Eventually the National American league voted to use poppies as national symbols of remembrance.
Poppies continue to be included in honor of fallen soldiers as part of Remembrance Day on November 11th each year. Remembrance Day is observed in Commonwealth member states as well as in other countries. The poem is also widely known in the United States and read as part of Veterans Day and Memorial Day celebrations.
Poppy Flowers in Folklore
The poppy flower and seeds play a role in the folklore of many nations and cultures. In the Ukraine, poppy seeds were placed in the coffin of midwives. These were intended for her to give as gifts to all the children she had delivered when they reached the afterlife.
In Minoan art, a well-known terracotta statue depicts a goddess with opium poppy seedheads extending from the crown on her head. This has earned her the name “poppy goddess.” This statue was discovered in Gazi, Crete.
The Assyrians called the poppy “daughter of the fields.” This is a reference to the association between poppies and agriculture. Poppies were viewed as giving nourishment to grains such as wheat. The poppies contributed “life-blood” to the soil and to the fields. Thus, they became a symbol of life and fertility.
Poppies and Witchcraft
The association of poppy seeds with sleep and death due to their narcotic properties has led them to be an ingredient in various forms of magic and witchcraft. Poppy seeds can create mental confusion and interfere with efficient thinking. On the other hand, poppy seeds are sometimes carried as a good luck charm.
Since they are also associated with death, poppy seeds have been used as offerings to ancestors or deities associated with the afterlife. Poppy seeds are connected to the astrological sign of Gemini, the water elements, the planet Neptune and the moon, the third eye chakra and feminine or receptive energy.
A Brief History of Opium
Opium is one of the oldest medicines in the world, and perhaps one of the most important. The power of opium makes it extremely useful and highly dangerous. Opium is produced from the white, milky substance in the seed pods of the opium poppy plant.
Before synthetic medications became prominent in the 20th century, plants like opium were the source of the majority of available drugs. Opium was particularly promoted for “women’s troubles” and to alleviate pain from teething in small children.
Another form of opium is laudanum. Laudanum is an alcoholic tincture of opium developed in the 17th century. Laudanum was recommended for everything from coughs to difficulty sleeping. Laudanum use was often combined with whiskey consumption. Sometimes laudanum was used to prepare patients for surgery.
Opium was also a prevalent recreational drug, mainly used in the opium dens common in China. As Chinese immigrants moved to the United States, the use of opium spread. For example, there were estimated to be upwards of 300 opium dens in San Francisco in the 19th century. Many of these were in the Chinatown section of the city. Chinese immigrants moved across America to work on railroads and to seek their fortunes during the 1849 Gold Rush.
Efforts to control opium use began early in the 20th century. All the same, opioid addiction is one of the major drug crises to this day. Modern opioids (Oxycontin, Vicodin and Demerol) are responsible for 130 drug-overdose deaths each day. Prescriptions for opioid medications became widespread before it was clear that the medications could be highly addictive.
Poppy Color Meanings
Poppy flowers have different meanings based on their colors. Knowing the meaning of a specific color of poppies can add deeper meaning to gardens, bouquets of flowers and artwork used in interior design. Poppy colors include scarlet red, pink, deep orange, light orange, white, purple, blue and black. Each of these different colors have their own meanings in the language of flowers.
Red Poppy Flower Meaning
Red poppy flowers symbolize undying love, remembrance, and sacrifice. For this reason, red poppies are generally the color placed on the graves of fallen soldiers. Red poppies are also associated with the blood of Christ and the crucifixion.
In contrast with these sober meanings, red poppies in Asian countries mean success, good fortune and romantic love. Red is also connected to fertility in many cultures. Brides in China have traditionally worn red dresses and covered their faces with red veils. Wedding invitation and gifts of money are often given in red envelopes.
In outdoor environments, bright red poppies swaying in the breeze create movement and drama. Red flowers in a garden symbolize cheerfulness and happiness. The color red also symbolizes the will to win and the survival instinct.
Red flowers generally mean pleasure, desire and vitality. Red flowers are stimulating and eye-catching. In addition, young children prefer brightly colored flowers including red and yellow. Red is easier to perceive than fainter shades.
There are many types of re poppies. A few of the most popular are listed below. Explore the meaning of other red flowers in the following articles: Camellia Meaning, Poinsettia Meaning and Rose Meaning.
RED POPPY VARIETIES
Flanders Poppy: The Flanders Poppy (Papaver Rhoeas) is also known as the Corn Rose or Filed Poppy. This is the poppy that is a symbol of the American Legion. Each plant produces a single, scarlet flower. They form a breathtaking scene when growing close together in a field.
Ladybird Poppies: The Ladybird Poppy is a popular flower with bright red flowers on a stem approximately 18″ high. They like a sunny area with fertile, well-drained soil. Seedlings appear in 14-28 days after planting.
Pink Poppy Flower Meaning
Pink poppies mean compassion and restful sleep. This is an uncommon color for poppy flowers. A pink poppy can also mean platonic love. Pink flowers symbolize love and healing from grief, anxiety or emotional trauma. Pink is related to warmth and love, gentleness, beauty, and an outward orientation. Learn about other pink flowers in Sweet Pea Meaning and Foxglove Meaning.
PINK POPPY VARIETIES
Pink Ruffles Oriental Poppy: This pink poppy is salmon-colored with deeply fringed petals. The center is large and black. The blooms are huge, often 4-6″ wide. This pink poppy flowers from late spring to midsummer.
Iceland Pink Poppy: The Iceland Pink Poppy is also known as the Artic Poppy or the Champagne Bubbles Pink Poppy. This flower is a biennial or short-lived perennial that grows on hairless leafy stems from 12 to 18″ tall. They prefer full sun or light shade.
Orange Poppy Flower Meaning
Orange poppies symbolize health and regeneration. They are often called Spanish Poppies. Sometimes their beautiful frilly petals are called orange feathers. Orange flowers raise the spirits and reflect the joy of sunshine.
As a general rule, orange flowers symbolize warmth, fire, energy, cheerfulness and vitality. Additional color meanings for orange include creativity, confidence, intuition, friendliness and the entrepreneurial spirit. Discover the meaning of other beautiful orange flowers including Marigold Meaning and Daylily Flower Meaning.
ORANGE POPPY VARIETIES
Prince of Orange Oriental Poppy: This orange poppy flowers boasts large orange blossoms the color of a tangerine. Each flower is 4-5″ across with a prominent black center. The Orange Oriental Poppy attracts hummingbirds and is resistant to deer and rabbits.
California Orange Poppy Flowers: The California Orange Poppy is the state flower of California and the “true” orange poppy. The orange popy is native to Mexico and California, thriving in arid regions. The Orange Poppy seeds itself, ejecting seeds to quite a distance.
White Poppy Flower Meaning
White poppies are associated with faith, remembrance, and the eternal life of the soul. White is the color of innocence and purity. As a result, white poppies are also symbols of restful sleep and renewal. On a spiritual level, white flowers symbolize purity, contemplation and innocence. White flowers can also symbolize the feminine energies of the moon. Learn more about another beloved white flower in Daisy Meaning.
WHITE POPPY VARIETIES
Sissinghurst White Poppies: The Sissinghurst White Poppy has large, pure white flowers. This flower is named after the White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle in England. This is an opium poppy, toxic to humans, cats and dogs. They prefer full sun to light shade.
White Persian Breadseed Poppy: The White Persian Breadseed Poppy is a member of the Papaver Somniferum varieties. This flower has a single bloom on the end of a long stalk. This white poppy flower will produce an abundance of seeds.
Purple Poppy Flower Meaning
Purple poppies are sometimes worn to remember animals that have been victims of war. This parallels the red poppies used in remembrance of fallen soldiers. Many animals including horses, dogs and pigeons have been used in war efforts. As a result, they have also sacrificed their lives.
Purple poppies are native to southeast Europe and western Asia. Purple and violet colors soothe the mind and nerves. Some color psychologists say purple helps to relieve tension and to dissipate anger and violence. Violet and purple flowers symbolize transformation and transmutation. Additional meanings include charisma, charm, magical abilities and tolerance.
Explore the meaning of other beautiful, exotic purple flowers in Lupine Meaning, Iris Meaning, Sweet Pea Meaning and Orchid Meaning.
PURPLE POPPY VARIETIES
Purple Poppy Mallow: The Purple Poppy Mallow is also known as Winecups. The Purple Poppy mallow is a host for two butterflies: the Gray Hairstreak and Painted Ladies. Individual plants can spread three feet or more, making them an excellent option for ground cover or rock gardens.
Patty’s Plum Poppies: Named after the gardener Patricia Marrow, the Patty’s Plum poppies are a type of Papaver orientale. These are tall poppies growing up to 32″ high. They make great cut flowers and bloom from late spring to midsummer.
Yellow Poppy Flower Meaning
Yellow poppy flowers symbolize renewal, optimism, and looking at the bright side of situations. Although yellow poppies are rare, they can form local colonies and be abundant in specific locations. Yellow flowers generally mean enthusiasm, a sense of humor, fun and optimism.
Yellow is also a color associated with wisdom and cheerfulness. Yellow is thought to stimulate the mind and create clear thinking. Find out more about yellow flowers in Daffodil Meaning, Sunflower Meaning and Marigold Meaning.
YELLOW POPPY VARIETIES
California Poppy: The yellow California poppy is also called the Golden Poppy, California Sunlight or Cup of Gold Poppy. This yellow poppy is native to the United States and Mexico. The flowers can survive mild winters but die completely in colder climates.
Greater Celandine Poppy: The Celandine Poppy is native to Europe and western Asia but has also been grown widely in the United States. The greater Celandine is tall with yellow petals that do not overlap. Celandine was used as a medicinal plant in the Middle Ages, often for ailments related to the eyes, throat or skin.
Welsh Poppy: The yellow Welsh poppy is native to England and Wales, growing in damp or shady areas. This yellow poppy has four overlapping petals, blooming from June to August. The Welsh Poppy is actually a member of the Menconopsis group, flowering plants that have poppy-like characteristics.
Yellow Horned Poppy: The Yellow Horned Poppy is also known as the Sea Poppy. This poppy is native to Europe, Northern Africa and other temperate areas. The beautiful yellow flower grows only along seashores and never inland.
Blue Poppy Flower Meaning
Blue poppies are rare, growing naturally in the Himalayan mountains. They are among a small handful of flowers that are naturally blue in color. Other blue flowers include irises, bluebells, asters, morning glories and bachelor buttons. The blue comes from the pigment Dephinidin.
In the Victorian language of flowers, a blue poppy symbolizes faith and imagination. Blue flowers symbolize the peace of ocean and sky. The impact of blue flowers is cooling and calming. As a general meaning, blue symbolizes water, the source of life.
Blue is related to freedom, strength and new beginnings. For example, blue skies mean optimism and better opportunities. Blue flowers carry these connotations as well as the value that comes from the fact that blue flowers are much less common than red, yellow, pink and white.
Explore other extraordinary blue flowers in articles on Bluebell Meaning, Morning Glory Meaning, Lupine Meaning and Iris Meaning.
BLUE POPPY VARIETIES
Hungarian Blue Poppy: Hungarian Blue Poppies are an heirloom variety. They bloom in blue and purple with dark markings. These are bee-friendly flowers with seeds used for baking and breads. This is an easy to grow annual that does well in normal, moist soil.
Himalayan Poppies: The blue Himalayan poppy looms in a light, cool blue color. The plants are extremely tall, sometimes 3-5 feet. These plants are not true poppies. The conditions to grow them successfully require rich soil that drains well. The plant blooms only once and they do best in a shady spot. The Pacific Northwest is the best region for this flower in the United States.
Black Poppy Flower Meaning
Some poppies comes in shades that are so dark they are almost black. The Papaver somniferum paeoniflorum variety is in this category. Black poppy meanings include elegance, deep sleep, and mysterious dreams. Black is a protective, feminine color that is almost always used in conjunction with other, brighter colors or in contrast with white.
The black poppy also commemorates black, African and Caribbean contributions to military service. This initiative was launched in 2010 to inspire others with these largely untold stories.
BLACK POPPY VARIETIES
Midnight Poppy: A near-black poppy that is actually a very deep shade of scarlet red. This is a monochromatic blower with no other markings. The Midnight Poppy attracts butterflies and bees. They can be grown in a container garden and are drought tolerant.
Double Black Poppies: This black poppy flower features multiple rows of petals in an extremely dark purple with a black appearance. They attract pollinators and grow well in poor soil. They are resistant to deer and rabbits.
Poppies in Modern Culture
The mystique of poppy flowers has continued from the days of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Learn more about the meaning of poppies in dreams and the significance of poppies in literature below. Discover how poppies are featured in modern culture in movies, poetry, songs, tattoos, artwork and more.
Meaning of Poppies in Dreams
If you dream of a poppy, the flowers symbolize your innermost desires. Eating poppy seeds in a dream may indicate the for need emotional nourishment. For example, if you dream of eating a poppy seed bagel, changes may be afoot in your career or income. Creating a sachet to place under your pillow of poppy seeds and lavender is said to bring pleasant dreams.
Many dream interpreters focus on the connection between poppy flowers and wealth. For example, seeing a field of poppy flowers can indicate improvement in your finances. In this context, poppy seeds mean that you are not yet realizing your true potential for earning wealth.
Meaning of Poppy Flower Tattoos
Women getting poppy flower tattoos may be indicating a carefree, independent nature. On the other hand, due to the association between poppy flowers and death, they may be using the tattoo to honor a loved one who has passed. Poppy flower tattoos are also used to honor anyone who is currently serving in the military.
Poppy tattoos, especially red poppy flowers, make a bold statement. Poppies can be combined with skulls, blackbirds, a Christian cross or leaves and green foliage. Because of the connection to opium, poppy tattoos are also used to indicate recovery from addiction.
Poppies in Songs
The word “amapola” means “poppy” in Spanish. The song Amapola is a beautiful love song made famous by the singer Andrew Bocelli as well as Michael Merlino. Other singers who have recorded this song include Antonio Zambujo, Gela Guralia, Helmut Lotti and Jose Carreras.
The original version of this song was written by Joseph La Calle in 1924. The song is dedicated to a woman he refers to with the endearing nickname of “Amapola.” Listen to Andrea Bocelli sing Amapola. Note that in the Caribbean, “amapola” is a reference to the African Tulip tree rather than the poppy flower.
Here are the lyrics in English and Spanish:
Amapola, pretty little poppy
My soul will be always only yours
I love you, my beloved girl
Like the flower loves the light of day
Amapola, pretty little poppy
Don’t be so ungrateful and love me
How can you live so lonely
I love you, my beloved girl
Like the flower loves the light of day
Amapola, pretty little poppy
Don’t be so ungrateful and love me
How can you live so lonely
Amapola, lindisima amapola
Será siempre mi alma tuya sola.
Yo te quiero, amada niña mia
Iqual que ama la flor la luz del día.
Amapola, lindisima amapola
No seas tan ingrate y ámame.
Cómo puedes tú vivir tan sola.
Yo te quiero, amada niña mía
Igual que ama la flor la luz del día
Amapola, lindísima amapola
No seas tan ingrate y ámame.
Cómo puedes tú vivir tan sola.
Poppies in Shakespeare
Shakespeare was fond of using flower symbolism in his many plays. During Shakespeare’s time, opium was used to treat many different ailments. In fact, the use of opium became widespread in Victorian England. Shakespeare’s contemporary and future audience would have understood any references to the poppy in association with sleep and pain relief.
In Shakespeare’s Othello, the character Iago has disturbed Othello so deeply that sleep seems nearly impossible. Shakespeare writes in Act 3, Scene 3: “Not poppy, nor mandragora, Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world, Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep…”
Another possible Shakespeare reference to opium occurs in Romeo and Juliet. The potion that Friar Lawrence prepares for Juliet to put her in a coma-like state may have included opium. Friar Lawrence is aware of the dangers as well as the power of opium. Early in the play in Act 2, Scene 2, Friar Lawrence proclaims:
“Within the infant rind of this weak flower
Poison hath residence, and medicine power,
For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part;
Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart.”
Poppies in the Wizard of Oz
One of the most well-known scenes from the iconic movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) is the image of Dorothy, Toto and the Cowardly Lion falling asleep in the midst of a field of bright red, poisonous poppies. The evil murmurs of the Wicked Witch accompany the memorable scene, “Poppies, poppies, poppies will put them to sleep.”
When L. Frank Baum wrote the book, originally published on May 17, 1900, it was the first in a series of novels about the magical land of Oz. Baum lived at a time when opium use had peaked in the United States and narcotic regulations were not yet in place. Concerns about opium may have been a factor in the creation of this powerful scene in the book and later in the movie.
Van Gogh’s Poppy Paintings
Vincent Van Gogh was a Dutch Post-Impressionist artist who painted a vast body of work including 2,000 paintings in the course of ten years. He died at the age of thirty-seven from suicide. Van Gogh had suffered with mental illness and been a patient at a psychiatric hospital. He famously had cut off his own ear in December of 1888.
Van Gogh’s painting Vase with Red Poppies was created in 1886 just four years before his death. The painting was oil on canvas, painted during the typical poppy blooming season in May and June. Van Gogh painted seven paintings featuring poppies in the last years of his life.
Since Van Gogh lacked money to pay models, he had turned to still life painting. This gave him the opportunity to experiment with intense colors. When he returned to a few portraits, the experience with colors in flowers helped him to paint “two heads which I dare say are better in light and colour than those I did before.”
Georgia O’Keefe’s Poppy Art
Georgia O’Keefe became famous for her close-up paintings of many subjects including animal skulls and flowers. Flowers were actually her favorite subject. She painted many orchids as well as calla lilies, irises, and petunias.
O’Keefe emphasized the forms and abstract elements of flowers. She was drawn to simplicity, color and shape. In the painting Oriental Poppies, O’Keefe used a mid-sized canvas (30 x 40″). The two red poppies depicted extend off the four sides of the canvas.
O’Keefe sets the dazzling red and orange poppies against an intense red background, creating an immersive experience for the viewer. One of O’Keefe’s objectives was to get people to slow down and see the details and the beauty of pure forms.
Poppies & Birth Month Flowers
Birth month flowers are said to have originated in Rome when birthdays first started being celebrated in the Roman culture. At the time, flowers were used as offerings to various Roman gods. There are generally two flowers for each birth month, with no overlaps during the year. Birth month flowers are similar to birth month gemstones and zodiac signs with no overlap.
Some birth month flowers correspond to the flowers blooming at that time of year. For example, daffodils and jonquils in the month of March. Birth month flowers can be used as decorations or bouquets for celebrating birthdays in the associated months. Poppies are one of the two birth month flowers for the month of August.
You can choose one flower or the other based on symbolism, in this case poppy flower meaning. Or use one of the birth month flowers as a primary flower and the other as a secondary flower. Birth month flowers throughout the year are as follows:
January: Carnations & Snowdrops
February: Violet & Primrose
March: Daffodil & Jonquil
April: Daisy & Sweet Pea
May: Lily of the Valley & Hawthorn
June: Larkspur & Water Lily
August: Gladiolus & Poppy
Poppy Facts & GardeningPoppy flowers have multiple uses from gardens to baking to bouquets. Read more about this amazing flower below! Includes medicinal uses, how to collect poppy seeds, different poppy flower varieties and poppy related gifts.
Fascinating Facts About PoppiesPoppies have been used for centuries in seasonings, medicine and health tonics. The oriental poppy is the only poppy that contains opium, but other poppies do have mildly sedative effects. There are a number of other fascinating uses for poppy flower, plants and seeds:
- Tea from poppies is used for a calming effect.
- Water made from poppies is said to remove wrinkles and freshen the skin.
- The opium poppy is also used for the production of latex.
- Poppies can be used for dye and for adding flavor and texture to breads and pastries.
- Poppies are the state flower of California (USA).
- Poppy oil can be used in cooking and salad dressings.
- Poppy oil is used in some cosmetics.
- The makers of Corona beer used red poppy flowers in advertising until the 1960s.
- The poppy is featured on the coat of arms for North Macedonia.
- Special Canadian quarters depict a red poppy on the reverse side.
Culinary Uses of Poppy Seeds
Poppy seeds were once used to make cooking oil. However, the rising prices of poppy seeds has decreased this significantly since the late 19th century. The most common modern use of poppy seeds is on breads, bagels and candy. Whole poppy seeds are also used in cakes. Poppy seeds are processed and harvested to remove opium alkaloids. However, there have been some reports of positive tests for heroin in drug tests conducted after poppy seeds were consumed.
In addition, a paste can be made from poppy seeds. This is used as a filling in pastries in Hungary and Poland. In India, poppy seeds are a component in spice blends for vegetable dishes. Poppy seeds are also used in salad dressings. The leaves can be eaten as well, but only before the flower heads form. After this, opium begins to form and they are not safe to ingest.
Poppy seeds vary in color based on their species. Poppy seeds may be blue, white or black. White poppy seeds are generally grown in India. The taste is similar with all colors of poppy seeds and they can be used interchangeably. Since poppy seeds are often used for decoration, the choice of color is mainly aesthetic.
Health Benefits of Poppies
The most traditional use of poppy flower seeds is as sedatives and pain relievers. The immature seed pod is used to make opiod narcotics. The alkaloids in poppy seeds include morphine, papaverine and codeine. The seeds also contain nutrients including vitamin B1, E and calcium. Poppy seeds are an antioxidant.
Some believe eating poppy seeds helps to prevent the formation of kidney stones. In folk medicine, an infusion from poppy seeds has been used for earaches and toothaches. Native American tribes in the United States used the leaves of the California Poppy as a sedative.
Poppy Flower Types
The poppy flower grows wild in many parts of the world. Poppies often grow in abandoned fields or on empty lots. Wild poppies can be found in Europe, Asia and America. There are nearly 100 species of poppies (papaver).
One of the notable characteristics of poppy flowers is the long stalk that holds the flowers high above the plant. Four of the main poppy flower types include the California Poppy, the Corn Poppy, the Oriental Poppy and the the Opium Poppy.
California Poppy: The California Poppy is celebrated on the 6th of April in the state that bears its name. This flower is also known as the Golden Poppy, Cup of Sunlight and California Sunshine. The California Poppy does not contain opiates.
Corn Poppy: Corn poppies are the poppy most well-known for the association with war and Flanders fields. See section on Poppy Meaning and World War I above. The Corn Poppy thrives in places were the soil has been disturbed such as battlefields or places of agriculture. The corn poppy is usually red, pink, white or a combination of these colors.
Oriental Poppy: The Oriental Poppy has large blooms, often bright orange or red. All parts of the oriental Poppy are poisonous if eaten. The flowers are short-lived, lasting only 10 to 14 days. The Oriental Poppy makes a beautiful spring display!
Opium Poppy: The Opium Poppy is the Common Poppy or Garden poppy. Although the seeds are edible, the rest of the plant is toxic. The Opium Poppy comes in many colors including white, red, orange, pink, black and blue. See Poppy Flower Colors above. Note that cultivating opium poppies in the United States is illegal. In addition, the manufacture and sale of drugs produced from the opium poppy are stringently regulated by international law.
Growing Poppy Flowers
Poppies are believed to have originated in Sumeria and traveled along the Silk Road with traders. Poppies were domesticated in Europe between Poppies do best in cool climates. They are both a cultivated flower and a hearty wildflower. Although poppies are perennials, they are often grown as annuals. Poppies grow throughout Europe, the Orient and the Americas.
The most popular varieties worldwide are the Oriental Poppy, the Flanders Poppy, the Opium Poppy (illegal to grow in the United States), the Iceland Poppy, the Himalayan Poppy and the Plume Poppy. Poppies in open meadows may reseed themselves every year. Wild poppies can be found near old buildings or at the edge of forests.
Opium poppies are cultivated in Turkey. These fields resemble a military base! They are surrounded by gates and guards to avoid smugglers from stealing the seeds. Opium growing is controlled in Turkey by the Limitation Law of 1933. The areas where poppies can be cultivated are determined by annual decree.
Poppies should be watered moderately and kept in full sun. Poppies grow between 2 and 5’ tall with blooms up to 12 inches across. There are single leaf and double leaf forms. The stamens form a spiral in the center of the flower.
Collecting Poppy Seeds
If you’d like to collect seeds from your garden poppy flowers, allow the flowers to flowers to die and the petals to fall off. When you are able to see small holes or windows at the top of the dried seed pod, the seeds are ready to harvest.
These windows are where the seeds would naturally come out for the poppy to reseed itself or for the seeds to be spread elsewhere. Pinch off the seed pods and shake them to release the tiny seeds into your hand or a bag. You can hear the seeds rattle in a pod that is ready to release all of its seeds. The seeds can be saved to plant wherever you’d like poppies in your garden.
On the other hand, if you don’t want the poppies to reseed themselves in a particular location, cut the seed pods off when they are still fresh. Seed pods usually take 80 to 90 days to dry. If you allow the poppies to dry completely, they will readily reseed themselves!
Tips for Poppy Bouquets
Poppy flowers are fairly fragile and need special care to last in bouquets. There is a reason why poppies are not available commercially in flower shops! However, if you have poppies in your garden, the bright, delicate petals and blooms are worth the extra effort.
Try the following tips and tricks to make your poppies last as long as possible indoors–usually about five days.
- Pick poppies in the morning or evening when they are the most hydrated. Avoid picking poppies in the heat of the day.
- Bring a bucket of water with you to the garden to immediately place the poppies in water. Use a deep bucket to protect them from the wind after cutting.
- When you bring the poppies indoors, they will need to rest overnight being cut. Seal the ends with a match to keep the poppies hydrated and place them in a cool, dark place overnight.
- The next day, cut the stems to the desired length and remove leaves that will be below the water line in a vase.
- Boil water and dip the newly-cut ends into the water to reseal. If the poppies have been in the dark, they will have closed. Watch them reopen when set in a vase in daylight!
Poppy Flower Related Gifts
Poppy images make cheerful gifts and beautiful décor! With their big, bold leaves and bright colors, poppies makes wonderful gifts for both men and women. They are also a simple, delightful flower for children. Images and gifts related to poppies are perfect for birthdays, housewarming gifts, graduations and baby showers.
Birthday gifts are all about personality. To find the perfect gift, you may want to ask yourself some of the following questions: What is the personality of the recipient? What are their hobbies or pastimes? What time of year were they born? Is this birthday a particularly significant year? If the recipient was born in August, poppies are especially appropriate. See Poppies and Birth Months.
In addition, housewarming gifts hold symbolic meaning for the recipient. Buying a new house, especially a first home, is one of the thrills of a lifetime. The importance of this event has been recognized in cultures around the world. Many traditions have evolved to help ensure that the home is a place of comfort, retreat and harmony for the new occupants.
Housewarming parties and housewarming gifts are two of the most prominent ways to honor this event. Small gifts for the home have become the norm: kitchenware, fine art, decorative items, and houseplants. Appropriate housewarming gifts include paintings or prints featuring flowers, herbs or gardens for the kitchen.
Keep in mind the positive aspects of poppy flower meaning including beauty, magic, consolation, humility, fertility, prosperity, rest, sleep and eternal life. Share the history of poppy symbolism to make your gift even more meaningful!
Author Kathleen Karlsen
Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.
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POPPY ARTICLE SUMMARY
On the one hand, poppies symbolize with death, eternal repose and sleep. On the other hand, poppy flower meaning includes beauty, fertility and prosperity. Each color also has its own unique meaning. Explore poppy flower meaning in historic and modern times.
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