A flower famous for its symbolism, delicate petals, and rich history, the poppy has had many uses from medicine such as codeine and morphine to the addictive recreational drug opium – its painkilling properties have made it well sought after for centuries.
Poppies are herbaceous, most well recognised for being bright red in colour but various species can be found across the globe. From California to China, the first recorded use of the poppy actually dates back to around 3,400BC in Iran, used for medicines as shown in artwork from the Sumerian rulers, but it’s uses have not always been so innocent.
The great opium wars begun in the 1800’s after nearly 40 years of smuggling opium across to China, addiction throughout the population grew out of control leading to retaliation against the British transporters and a series of naval wars. The conflicting opinions on whether or not to trade the substance was one also shared by the French, who joined the conflict in what was known as the Arrow war, from 1856 to 1860.
As time passed and treaties were signed, the flower’s symbolism has changes drastically. From what was once the reason for war, poppies are now known for representing remembrance, peace, and loss. “In Flanders Field” remains one of the most recognised poems from the first world war, denoting the poppies that grew in war driven landscapes. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row.”
Worn every year on the 11th November to acknowledge the sacrifices that our ancestors made, the poppy will remain a recognised symbol for years to come.