In World War I, soldiers from all over the world came home weary from a war they hoped soon to forget. As veterans, many brought with them the memory of wild poppies growing in the fields where fallen comrades lay; an image that was captured in a famous poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields.” Taken up by the American Legion and recognized all over the world, the image of a poppy pinned to the lapel served to remind us of the service and sacrifice of soldiers everywhere. On the last Monday in May, what better way to commemorate the lives lost and honor those living than with a vase of beautiful, red poppies.
With hundreds of different species, the poppy has its own botanical family and comes in a wide variety of colors with a broad geographical distribution. The poppy associated with wartime remembrance is the red corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas, which grow wild in open fields and meadows. With a typical bloom time of late spring and early summer, it is possible to find them at your local florists. A great substitute, which is often in stock, is the large, red oriental poppy. Lovely in a vase on their own or mixed with hypericum berries or lilies, a live poppy will last for a week in a vase with water and can easily be turned into a boutonniere in lieu of one made of paper. Traditionally worn on the left side, the poppy is the perfect flower to help us remember those who serve and sacrifice in wars; lest we forget.
Flowers in Your Inbox!
- In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
the torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
-Lt. Col. John McCrae