One of the most interesting plants in the world, the poppy plant has long stood as a symbol of both healing and poison. It has taken on the symbolism of grief, loss, and hope.
And it grows relentlessly in fields across Eurasia, North Africa, North America, and Europe as a sign of replenishment and the flourishing nature of life. It is no wonder then that the poppy has symbolism across cultures and that giving poppy flowers as a gift can hold tremendous significance.
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An Overview of the Poppy Plant
The poppy plant proliferates across the globe as both an aesthetic flower, a medicinal plant, and a food for consumption.
Also known by its Latin name, Papaver somniferum, the poppy has been used by humans for its soporific effects for thousands of years. It was first recorded as a plant by humans thousands of years ago in 3,400 B.C. in Mesopotamia.
Indeed, the poppy flower appears in the Christian Bible as part of the gall that was offered to Jesus while he was being crucified. Even then, the flower was known for its ability to ease pain and suffering through its intense drugging effect. Jesus, of course, refused the wine with gall and opted for vinegar instead.
The poppy is a hardy, easy to grow and maintain plant that requires very little water. There is a reason you can see poppy fields growing wild in virtually every climate. You don’t have to prune them, and they are self-seeding, coming back year after year.
The poppy plant is also well known for its production of opium in today’s medicinal circles. It is the base for opioids like morphine, codeine, heroin, and oxycodone.
In small doses, the poppy is not only harmless but can actually be beneficial to our health, which is why we find them on our bagels and in our muffins. Poppy seeds can reduce cholesterol, they are high in iron, and they help improve blood circulation.
The poppy plant is a great example of the expression “the difference between medicine and poison lies in the dose.”
You can grow poppies both indoors and outdoors, and you can use the plant medicinally like you would an herb in your garden.
What Does a Poppy Plant Symbolize?
The poppy plant holds tremendous power in Greek mythology. Hypnos, Nix, and Thanatos are just a few characters in the stories that have the poppy as their symbol.
The goddess Demeter, who presided over nature and agriculture, was closely associated with the poppy because the gods gave her the plant to help her sleep after her daughter, Persephone, was taken to the underworld by Hades.
According to the myth, when Demeter awoke and Persephone was returned to her, poppies sprang from Demeter’s feet as she walked. Later, she turned her love, Mecon, into a poppy when he died.
Thus, the poppy has long been a symbol of grief, of the death of a loved one, and of remembrance.
Indeed, after four years of battle during World War I, poppies were planted on some of the battlefields, and they return every year. Today, poppies are worn as a symbol of remembrance in the U.S. and across the United Kingdom, especially in reference to war remembrances.
Thus, the poppy holds a unique position as a representation of death, sleep, life, and remembrance across cultures.
Does Giving a Poppy Plant as a Gift Have Meaning?
Today, red poppies are given as gifts to memorialize someone we have lost. They can be planted in remembrance, given in bouquets, laid on burial sites or plots, or worn on the lapel. It has become a universally recognized representation of hope for the future across the western world.
If you are thinking of giving poppies to someone who has lost a loved one, you are also not limited to live flowers. You can give a bag or piece of art with red poppies on it.
Furthermore, you can give someone poppies or items with poppies on them as a sign of respect for a great sacrifice they have made or as a symbol of undying love.
The poppy holds deep meaning to anyone who gives or receives it.
Do Poppy Plants Help with Feng Shui?
In feng shui, the poppy holds a bit of a different spin. Remember, the poppy is hardy and thrives as a wildflower, so in Eastern traditions, this lively plant brings vitality and richness to the energy of your home.
The colors, bright reds and oranges, bring abundance and fertility, so feng shui dictates you can keep a poppy in your bedroom if you are hoping to get pregnant.
Poppies also represent fiery energy in feng shui, so you can keep them wherever you want to inspire passion or drive, like in your office or even in the kitchen.
Do Artificial Poppy Plants Look Real and Do They Maintain Their Symbolism?
And if you are in the off season, if you have allergies, or you just don’t want to have to maintain live poppies, you can totally invest in artificial poppies to keep in your home. You will still reap the benefits of the symbolism, whatever the poppy means to you in the moment.
Remember, you don’t have to have plants, either. You can hang a large painting of poppies, or even just drink your daily tea from a mug with red poppies on it. Symbols are as powerful as you believe they are, so you can bring them into your home and your life in any way that makes sense to you.
When it comes to artificial plants, you can definitely find high-quality versions that look just like the real thing.
If you’re stressed that you might be off trend with fake plants, check out my article on whether artificial plants and flowers are tacky.
How do you feel about poppies? Love them or hate them? Let me know in the comments. I love to hear from my readers.