Poppy Flower Meaning, Spiritual Symbolism, Color Meaning & More

Last Updated on October 4, 2023

The poppy symbolizes both peace, death, and sleep. When you see a poppy on a tombstone, this represents eternal sleep. Many have referenced this symbolism in The Wizard of Oz, where a poppy field could make the characters fall asleep forever.

Poppy Flower Meaning

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Flower Symbolism

Remembrance Day

The most important symbol of the poppy and most widely known is its link with remembrance. Remembrance Day Poppies have been a symbol of remembrance and respect for those who have fallen in World War I across Europe and North America.

This meaning developed after the field poppy was a common part of the landscape on the Western Front during the war. After the field was bombed, the land would not grow too much again.

Poet, John McCrae wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’, and this was about pretty red flowers, that grew over the graves that had given their sacrifice and beautified the ruined countryside.

People initiated the wearing of the Remembrance Day poppies in 1921. The poem still holds great significance on Armistice Day in Canada and Europe and Memorial and Veterans Day in the US.

Veterans made most poppy pins in the past. Yet a private contractor now supplies a lot of the poppy pins. Moreover, the sale of the pins for Remembrance and Armistice Day raise money for veterans.

The thing all World War I Remembrance Day poppies have in common is their color. The poppies are red, but this is not to signify the blood, it is because red is the natural color of field poppies. Each poppy pin also has a black center and some might have a green stem or leaf added.

Other Symbolism

In California, the poppy is the state flower and the red flower is also the national flower of Albania.

The poppy is also a sign that summer is coming because of its intense colors and size. It can also mean imagination, messages delivered in dreams, success, extravagance, beauty, and luxury.

This is very common in Eastern countries, where the poppy has strong associations with success. The image of poppies growing as far as the eye can witness promotes feelings of prosperity

There is also a cross-cultural association of the poppy with imagination, magic, and mysticism. This is down to the fact that the opiates contained within the flower can cause hallucinations when taken in large quantities.

Many also used opiates for sedation and sleep. Therefore they associated with vivid dreams.

Poppy Color Meanings

When people think of poppies, they often think of red. Thus, people often used this color poppy on Remembrance Day to show respect for fallen soldiers. Further, the blood-red coloring helps to reinforce this link.

In Eastern cultures, however, the red poppy symbolize love and success. This means there is a stark contrast to their solemn Western symbolism. 

The poppy also has strong links to peace and hope. The white poppy has closely related to peace. Such that in 1933, the year before they founded Peace Pledge Union, people wore white poppies to foreground the need for peace in the future.

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The white poppy became a promise that the horrors seen in World War I should not be repeated. Since 1933, the white poppy has symbolized of peace surrounding Remembrance Day, to try and centralize hope for future peace and help with mourning the dead.

The white poppy is often has ties to funerals and memorial ceremonies in the East. The pink poppy is one of the most common shades and has connotations of success, imagination, and luxury. 

Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Poppy

The plant is a typical herbaceous plant and can grow between 30 and 100cm. The plant is usually biennial, but sometimes annual and can grow up to 100cm long creamy white to brown taproots.

The leaves are pinnate and can reach lengths of between 15-20 cm. In their first year, poppies often form a leaf rosette without any stems. The thin hair stem is formed in the following year. The stem also contains milk tubes and these are connected. Through this, the milk juice flows.

The poppy shows its red flowers between May to August and these have a diameter that measures 7-12 cm. The flowers often only last only one full day before falling off. Each stalk has just one flower on the upper end and they are hermaphroditic with four petals.

They have a huge number of stamens, which can reach around 160 and these provide the pollen for the propagation of the plant. Following the flowering, they develop into characteristic capsule fruits. Each poppy contains a lot of poricidal and this holds the black poppy seeds.

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Special Occasions For The Poppy

Since the flowers are large and colorful, the Poppy bouquets and sprays always look impressive and it is common to gift the Poppy on occasions such as:

  • Funerals and Memorial Services. This is especially relevant for soldiers that pass away whilst serving. The flower also symbolizes recovery, restful sleep, and eternal life.
  • Encouraging Better Sleep to loved Ones. This can be family and friends who are experiencing insomnia.
  • Making an Offering to the Dead. This can be done by leaving the flowers on tombs or graves.
  • Sending a Sign of Love. It is common to send a poppy to a loved one, spouse, or romantic interest.
  • Adding Luxury. Poppies can be used to set up a luxurious atmosphere for a specific event.
  • Birthday. Poppies are also perfect for gifting to those who have a birthday in August as they are in season at this time as they are the classic flower that represents the birth month of August. 

Depending on where you live and who you give the flowers to, the meaning will vary. However, giving someone a bouquet is one way to make a meaningful and lasting impression.

Cultural Significance

The poppy is one of the most popular symbolic flowers all over the globe. Egyptian, Ancient Greek, and Roman societies linked it with relaxation and sleep as a result of the sedative effect of the plant’s sap. The Greeks also related this link due to Morpheus, the god of sleep.

The Victorians gave the poppy a variety of meanings and these were solely based on color. They included consolation for loss, extravagance, and deep sleep. 

Chinese and Japanese flower experts suggest that couples use the poppy as it symbolizes a passionate love between two people. However, the white poppy also closely linked to death in the same culture.

In Eastern cultures, different colors represent beauty and success. The red poppy is known for being the traditional flower of remembrance for both Europe and North America. This relates to the ties with World War I and II.

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Flower Facts

  • There are more than 70 species of Papaver and these come in a range of shapes and colors to suit every occasion.
  • Papaver grows in the northern hemispheres and this includes the Arctic Circle, with only one species found in southern Africa.
  • The poppy has been cultivated for a long time, dating back to 2700 BCE.
  • Culinary poppy seeds are a source of minerals, iron, and calcium. They are derived from the opium poppy.
  • Among the most widely grown perennials is the Papaver orientale.
  • In China, Singapore, and Taiwan, poppy seeds are banned because they can be used to grow opium poppies, and food containing the seed is also prohibited.
  • Poppies are on the coat of arms of the Royal College of Anaesthetics

Flower Uses

The poppy is often used as a herb in the kitchen and can be used in salads or boiled in spinach before being used for flowering. It is said to taste cucumber and hazelnut.

They are also used to decorate pies and fruit salads and for this, the petals are picked individually. The small black seeds can also be used as a cake topping, yet if eaten in excessive amounts, this can cause intoxication. 

The poppy is also used as a medicinal plant and can make natural remedies for calming effects. In the Middle Ages, it was well-known to treat insomnia, fever, constipation, internal pain, and generalized gynecological disorders. It is now more commonly used to treat boils, coughs, insomnia, skin problems, nervousness, and promoting the menstrual cycle.

For sleep disorders, syrup from the flower can help. However, since there is a chance of slight intoxication, valerian or lemon balm can be used in replacement.

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What Is The Symbolism of a Poppy Flower Tattoo?

If you have a poppy tattoo that is facing outwards, this means you are paying respect to veterans of World War I. However poppy tattoos can also represent people who have a personality that is strong and free-spirited.

This meaning is commonly associated with women. The tattoo can also show how women are independent and carefree, but they still have a good head on their shoulders.

Poppy tattoos can also be a way of paying respect to someone you have loved or have passed away as in classical times, they symbolize peace, death, and sleep.

A red poppy tattoo symbolizes that you have a fiery spirit and a free-spirited will. You also wear your heart on your sleeve and answer to nobody. A yellow poppy tattoo refers to your need for prosperity and suggests you will only be happy if you achieve your goal of becoming successful.

A blue poppy tattoo represents sadness and therefore refers to a loved one who has passed. A purple poppy tattoo symbolizes wealth and prosperity.

The bright orange color of a California poppy tattoo is a symbol that a person may be from California but is also signals that the wearer is full of joy, free-spirited, strong, and passionate.

Final Thoughts

We hope by reading this article you now understand more about the beautiful flower and the important symbolism of the poppy. They are flowers to use in remembrance of not only the fallen soldiers of World War I, but also loved ones you hold dear, who may have passed in life.

They are flowers of protection and can help you develop a sense of inner peace so that you can get all the restful sleep you need at night. The poppy urges you to honor the dead and use your free spirit and imagination for a richer life.

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