History of the Flanders Poppies
(Red Corn Poppy)

For many years, I wondered what the significance of the red poppies were in relation to Veterans Day. I found the story behind the symbol.

It has been noted throughout history that after a major war red poppies seemed to pop up in the battlefields and on soldiers graves. It seems that poppy seeds lay dormant in the soil and when the soil is heavily turned or dug up it causes them to sprout. The most detailed of this event took place in WWI in Flanders Field, Belgium. In the craters where bombs fell and on the mounds of rubble, poppies bloomed everywhere. The heavily churned earth and the high concentration of lime from the limestone buildings made the perfect catalyst for the poppies to grow.

Around 1920 an American, Moina Michael, was the 1st recorded incidence of a person wearing a poppy in remembrance of lives lost in WWI. Madame E. Guerin on a visit from France heard of the idea and upon returning home began to make homemade poppies and sold them to help support the children of war. This idea quickly spread around the world. The poppies are sold in many countries with proceeds benefiting many different veteran organizations. So the next time you see someone with poppies for a donation...you will know what they mean.

Below, is a famous poem called 'In Flanders Field' written by Major John McCrae who was at Flanders Field, Belgium during WWI.

 

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.


Please click here to return to the History Index page.

Disclaimer