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Poppies conjure so much within the imagination. Whether it’s dreams from Morpheus, intoxicating beauty, lurid reds and pinks, opium dens, Flanders Fields, or a young Dorothy Gale asleep in a technicolor field, the poppy is an incredibly symbolic flower. Poppies are known for their showy, colorful petals and are a favorite among gardeners.

After the warfare of the First World War among the trenches in Belgium where poppies bloomed in Flanders Fields, the blossom became synonymous with the remembrance of those lost. John McCrae’s 1918 poem In Flanders Fields describes the poppies that “blow between the crosses, row on row” and is probably one of the most well-known literary examples of this particular place in history (even though the red poppy has been associated with the fallen since the Napoleonic wars).

Sylvia Plath’s Poppies In July (from the collection Ariel) describes the flower as being “little hell flames.” She writes “You flicker. I cannot touch you. I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.” Plath’s exploration of poppies has to do with feeling (or the lack thereof) as she juxtaposes more serious subject matter with the height of summer.

Poppies were used as offerings for the dead in Greek and Roman mythology as the bright red color symbolized resurrection and, to some, is a symbol of the blood of Christ. Of course, the poppy flower is not solely red; it grows in a variety of colors including pink, purple, and white and is unceasingly enjoyed for its audacious beauty.

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