The red poppy which grew wild in the disturbed earth of Flanders during World War I has become tightly linked to Remembrance Day tomorrow.
The red poppy which grew wild in the disturbed earth of Flanders during World War I has become tightly linked to Remembrance Day tomorrow.

Poppy has special place in memory

A COMPANION plant and weed, the Flanders Poppy, the most significant sign of Remembrance Day throughout the world, may in fact have originated in Mongolia.

It is believed the Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) came to Eastern Europe with Genghis Khan during his war with Persia and Afghanistan in the early 1200s. It soon established itself as a weed which grew in disturbed soil, becoming a ‘companion' plant to crops like wheat and barley.

Wherever the grain crops from The Steppes were sold, the poppy seed went too, and by the time of World War I some 700 years later, the red poppy grew alongside almost every grain crop throughout Europe.

This particular poppy does not grow wild unless the soil is ‘disturbed' or ploughed, and so the great artillery battles of the Somme and in Flanders, which left huge areas of land devastated, saw the emergence of millions of red poppies all over the battlefields.

There is a little more which makes the ‘Flanders Poppy' stand out among other flowers, and that is the small black colouring at the base of all petals which form a cross in the base of the flower itself. Only the Papaver rhoeas poppy, the real Flanders Poppy, has this black heart.

The poppy grew to prominence as a result of the poem, In Flanders Fields, the most frequently quoted English language poem composed by front-line personnel during WWI. It was written by Canadian doctor, Lieutenant John McCrae, who was serving in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and appeared for the first time in Punch magazine on December 8, 1915.

McCrae was killed in action later in the war and did not see how the poppy he wrote about became the sign of Remembrance almost throughout the world by the 1930s.

The Flanders Poppy in many forms is seen in the days leading up to Remembrance Day, November 11, and again, in the lead up to Anzac Day, April 25.

Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph, Leslie Park tomorrow:

8.30am Flag raising

10.30am Arrival of official guests and veterans

10.45am Flag lowered to half-mast; march on Catafalque Party

10.50am Welcome by Sub-branch president

10.55am March on RSL Standard

10.59am Last Post

11.00am One minute silence

11.02am The Ode

11.03am Reveille

11.05am Guest speakers



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