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Poppy Flower Meaning - Death, Immortality, Prosperity & Dreams

Poppy Flower Meaning

Poppy flower meaning has existed since ancient times. These flowers 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 World War I. In contrast with meanings connected to death and sleep, poppy flowers also symbolize beauty, magic, consolation, humility, fertility, prosperity and eternal life. 

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.

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Poppy Meaning in Ancient Myths

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.

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 batt le, 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.

Find more flower meanings in The Language of Flowers article
and in our Flower Meanings List of 75 of the world’s favorite flowers.

Poppy Flower Meaning and WWI

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. 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” has been used in countless memorial services. McCrae’s poem was eventually published in the Ladies’ Home Journal.

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.

Poppy Flower Meaning by Colors

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:

Pink Poppy Flower Meaning

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 in remembrance.

Red poppies are also associated with the blood of Christ. In contrast with this, red poppies in Asian countries mean success, food fortune and romantic love.

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.

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Yellow Poppy Flower Meaning

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.

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.

White Poppy Flower Meaning

White poppies ae 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.

Blue Poppy Flower Meaning

Blue poppies are rare, growing naturally in the Himalaya mountains. They are among a small handful of flowers that are naturally blue in color. The blue comes from the pigment dephinidin. In the language of flowers, a blue poppy symbolizes faith and imagination.

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.

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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.

The black poppy also commemorates the black, African and Caribbean communities’ contributions to military service. This initiative was launched in 2010 to inspire others with these largely untold stories.

What Symbolic Flowers Mean to Me

A quick story of how Kathleen Karlsen discovered flower symbols and the research that led to her book Flower Symbols.

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Poppy Flower Meaning and Uses

Fascinating Facts About Poppies

There are 120 species of poppies. 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.

Poppies have been used for centuries in seasonings, medicine and health tonics. Tea from poppies has been used for its calming effect. The oriental poppy is the only poppy that contains opium, but other poppies do have mildly sedative effects.

Water made from poppies is said to remove wrinkles and freshen the skin. Poppies can also be used for dye and for adding flavor and texture to breads and pastries. Poppies are the state flower of California (USA).

Best Places to Grow Poppies

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.

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. 

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More Flower Symbolism Articles

Explore the meaning of flower colors, the history of the Victorian language of flowers, the symbolic meaning of flowers in art and over a dozen articles on specific flowers on this website. Visit Flower Symbolism. More on the web: Top 15 Most Exotic Flowers Around the World. Brighten up any space with gifts and decor featuring beautiful flowers! Find posters, prints, canvases and more.  See all floral art & gifts.

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Meet Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen Sacred Mantras & Symbolic Art

Kathleen Karlsen is the author of the book Flower Symbols: The Language of Love. This handy reference book includes extensive flower meanings and folklore about the world’s most beloved flowers. Flower Symbols is the perfect gift for yourself or a flower lover in your life! 

Kathleen is a writer, artist and musician living in Bozeman, Montana. She is the mother of five kids (teen to adult) and the author of two books. Kathleen’s other book is Vocal Medicine: Transformation through Sound. Listen to Kathleen’s MUSIC and see more of her ARTWORK

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