Papaver rhoeas

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Papaver rhoeas - Flander's Poppy

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Papaver rhoeas

Category Perennial
Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Angiospermae
Order Ranunculales
Family Papaveraceae
Genus Papaver
Varieties in this species
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Aden Earth Zone

4 - 7


  • Cultivation: Easy-To-Grow, For-Gardeners
  • Light: Sun
  • Soil: Rich
  • pH: 7
  • Moisture: Medium, Well-Drained


  • Form: Herbaceous
  • Habit: Perennial
  • Flower: Large
  • Fruit/Seed: Small
  • Foliage: Leaves
  • Uses: Ornamental


Papaver rhoeas (Common names include corn poppy, corn rose, field poppy, Flanders poppy, red poppy, red weed, and, due to its odour, which is said to cause them, as headache and headwark) is a species of flowering plant in the poppy family, Papaveraceae. This poppy, a native of Europe, is notable as an agricultural weed (hence the "corn" and "field") and as a symbol of fallen soldiers.
P. rhoeas sometimes is so abundant in agricultural fields that it may be mistaken for a crop. The only species of Papaveraceae grown as a field crop on a large scale is Papaver somniferum, the Opium poppy.

Natural history

File:Poster Papaver 2a.jpg
Poster Papaver 2a.jpg
The plant is a variable annual, forming a long-lived Soil seed bank that can germinate when the soil is disturbed. In the northern hemisphere it generally flowers in late spring, but if the weather is warm enough other flowers frequently appear at the beginning of autumn. The flower is large and showy, with four petals that are vivid red, most commonly with a black spot at their base. Like many other species of Papaver, it exudes a white Latex when the tissues are broken.
It is known to have been associated with Agriculture in the Old World since early times. It has most of the characteristics of a successful Weed of agriculture. These include an annual lifecycle that fits into that of most cereals, a tolerance of simple weed control methods, the ability to flower and seed itself before the crop is harvested.
The leaves and latex have an acrid taste and are mildly poisonous to grazing animals.
Its origin is not known for certain. As with many such plants, the area of origin is often ascribed by Americans to Europe, and by northern Europeans to southern Europe. The European Garden Flora suggests that it is ‘Eurasia and North Africa’; in other words, the lands where agriculture has been practiced since the earliest times. It has had an old symbolism and association with agricultural fertility.

Cultural usage

File:Field poppy (Papaver rhoeas) in meadow.jpg
Field poppy (Papaver rhoeas) in meadow.jpg
File:Anzac poppies.JPG
Anzac poppies.JPG

Due to the extent of ground disturbance in warfare during World War I, corn poppies bloomed in between the trench lines and No man's lands on the Western front. They were immortalized in the poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian poet and soldier Lt Col John McCrae. Similarly, it is a symbol of the blood of Polish soldiers killed in the Battle of Monte Cassino in the Polish War song Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino (Red Poppies on Monte Cassino).
The corn poppy has become a Cultural icon to military Veterans, especially veterans of World War I, and has become associated with wartime remembrance, especially during Remembrance Day or Anzac Day in Commonwealth countries. In Canada, where the corn poppy is largely associated with Remembrance Day, the Royal Canadian Mint in 2004 released into circulation a quarter with a commemorative reverse featuring a corn poppy coloured red.
This poppy is a common Weed in Europe and is found in many locations, including Flanders Fields. Canadian surgeon and soldier, John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields on May 3, 1915, after witnessing the death of his friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer. The opening line of the poem vividly depicts corn poppies blowing in the wind amongst the many crosses that mark the resting places of fallen soldiers.
Inspired by McCrae's poem, in 1915 US professor Moina Michael published a poem of her own called We Shall Keep the Faith. In tribute to the opening lines of McCrae's poem -- In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses row on row, -- Michael vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in the war.
Artificial poppies are used for remembrance, because they do not flower naturally in November in Europe, and because individual flowers are short-lived. In many Commonwealth countries, Paper or Plastic corn poppy flowers are worn to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans and civilians in World War I and other wars, during the weeks preceding Remembrance Day on November 11. In the United States, it is common practice to wear "Buddy Poppies" (artificial, paper or plastic versions distributed by the Veterans of Foreign War) during the weeks preceding Memorial Day, the last Monday in May to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans in the various wars; whereas Veterans Day on November 11 is used to honor "living" veterans.
In Canada, poppies are distributed by the Royal Canadian Legion and the Anavets organization each fall prior to Remembrance Day. The design of the Canadian poppy consists of petals made of red plastic with a felt lining and black centre held on by a pin. In 1980, the Royal Canadian Legion formed a committee to decide the future of the poppy and it was decided that the centre should be changed to green to represent the green fields of France. In 2002, the poppy centres were switched back to the traditional black. Those who were unaware or had forgotten that black centres had been used in the design of the poppy from its introduction in 1921 until 1980 found the change somewhat controversial.
In New Zealand and Australia, plastic poppies are widely distributed by the Returned Services Association leading up to ANZAC day (April 25).
The corn poppy has been adopted as a symbol by The Royal British Legion in their Poppy Appeal.
This poppy appears on a number of coins, banknotes, and national flags, including:
Two hundred lei (Romanian banknote)
Canadian ten-dollar bill (2001)
some commemorative Canadian twenty-five cent coins in 2004 and 2008
The common or corn poppy was voted the County flower of Essex and Norfolk in 2002 following a poll by the wild plant conservation charity Plantlife.

War poetry

Poppies stand as a prominent feature of  one of the most frequently quoted English-language poems composed by front-line personnel during the First World War. It was written by John McCrae a doctor serving in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, and appeared for the first time in Punch magazine on December 8, 1915.

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.

- John McCrae


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