This year it is 100 years since the end of WW1. The armistice was signed on the 11th
day of the 11th month in 1918 and it has been the tradition, ever since, to remember
the fallen on this day by wearing a poppy.
There are several reasons why the poppy was chosen as a symbol of remembrance. In ancient times, the poppy, possibly the opium poppy, was a sacred plant often depicted with Hypnos, the god of sleep, as it was used as a sedative and pain killer. We still see poppies on gravestones today, as well as on ancient burial sites, as in pagan times they were said to ease the rites of passage to the underworld. However, it’s thought that the wild corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas, was chosen as a symbol of remembrance because, on the battlefi elds of the First World War, red poppies grew in great profusion. The churned up fields brought the seeds to the surface where they germinated, covering the bare earth with a cloak of red. The poem by John McCrae "In Flanders Fields" made these red poppies famous. The poem was written by him during the confl ict after he had noted how quickly poppies flowered over new graves.
There are many types of poppies. Papaver rhoeas; the wild corn poppy mentioned above, is an annual flower that we've often seen in and around Barrow’s fields. The new Poppyfields Estate is being built on one such field and I like to think that we will still see the poppies around there from time to time. Papaver somniferum; this is also an annual and can be grown in most gardens in a whole range of colours, with single and double flowers, some stunningly beautiful.
Papaver orientale is another beautiful
cultivar; this one is biennial which means
it grows one year and fl owers the next.
Meconopsis cambrica: a UK wild perennial
associated with Wales. It has a lovely,
delicate, yellow bloom. Lastly, I do have
to add the Blue Meconopsis, This is not
a British native, or easy to grow, but
seeing a bed of these on the Scottish
west coast was like the reflection of a
summer blue sky...
Poppies, being rich in pollen, are very attractive to wildlife, especially to bees and hoverfl ies… but not butterflies… as they don't produce nectar. They do, however, produce copious amounts of seeds that are very attractive to seedeating birds.
Coming back to the native, wild, red poppy of remembrance, I'm sure that much will be written about the end of the First World War this year and, by November, Barrow Scouts will be out selling poppies again. The young are so important in keeping history alive so that future generations can also say, ‘We will remember them.’