Poppy Flower Meaning

Poppy Flower Meaning and Symbolism of Each Color

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The birthday flower for the month of August, the poppy, or Papaver somniferum, is one of the most popular wildflowers in the United States.

Although it’s best known for its vibrant shades of red, the poppy flower can be found in many other colors as well. The red poppy flower is used for military remembrance on remembrance day. The red poppy flower is also one of the world’s most popular wildflowers.

What is the Poppy Flower Meaning?

Before we dive into the specific poppy flower meaning, let’s first look at what the poppy actually is. 

The common poppy is a well known plant found growing in places that receive full sun. It is a short lived perennial that thrives in well drained soil but can even be found growing naturally in poor soil as well. It is often used in crop rotation practices for its hardy nature. 

Typically, poppies, or Papaver orientale, bloom in late spring.

The plant has tiny seeds that are often used in cooking oil and even salad dressings. Poppy oil is prized for its health benefits, while white poppy seeds are great for baking. Of course, there’s also the opium poppy.

Wild poppies are also some of the world’s most popular wildflowers. These flowers are known to attract pollinators. 

In the past, the red poppy flower came from Asian countries along with Eurasia and North Africa, but today central Europe is best known for this color. You can also give someone a red poppy flower to symbolize undying love.

Not only that, but poppies possess powerful symbolic meanings. While the meaning varies between cultures and countries, one thing is for sure – this beautiful flower can really enhance the beauty and symbolism of a classic bouquet.

What Does Poppy Mean?

There isn’t a lot of symbolism behind the word “poppy” itself. In fact, it’s simply a derivative of the Old English popig, which is a medieval Latin alteration of the Laitn word papaver, which means “to swell.” That is one possible translation.

Another translation is from the Latin word for milk, “pappa.” This is because the poppy, when cut, seeps a thick latex sap that looks much like milk. 

 This milky substance has multiple uses, though most people find themselves growing poppies purely for their ornamental value. 

The different poppy color meanings speak to the beauty and diversity of this plant. There are countless colors to choose from, each with their own meanings, including the pink poppy flower, orange poppy flower, blue poppy blower, and even the yellow poppy flower. Even the black poppy flower meaning is important to be aware of!

It’s also important to note that although the poppy as a symbol has relatively consistent meanings regardless of the variety, it can change slightly between different variants. There are more than 70 different plants in the Papaver genus.

Some popular types of poppies to be aware of include:

  • Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) – the most familiar of all poppy types 
  • Flanders poppy (Papaver rhoeas) – also known as the common poppy or corn poppy, named after Flanders Field and a shout out to the Napoleonic Wars
  • Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum paeoniflorium variety) – this is the poppy from which opiates are derived
  • Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule)
  • Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis grandis)
  • Plume poppy (Macleaya cordata)
  • Greater Celandine poppy (Chelidonium majus)
  • Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
  • California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
  • Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri)

Again, the poppy meaning is more or less the same among these different species, but knowing the difference between each type of poppy is nevertheless still important. 

field of red poppies

What Does the Poppy Flower Symbolize?

The poppy flower is a common symbol that has been used to represent everything from peace to death and even simply sleep. When used on tombstones, poppies represent eternal sleep since ancient times. This symbolism was referenced in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which a mystical poppy flower field could make the characters sleep forever. 

Poppies became associated with peace and sacrifice for the greater good after world war 1 broke out in northern France. Shortly after the battle, poppies grew around the bodies of fallen soldiers. They were one of only a few plants that regrew after the war ended.

The blue poppy symbolizes faith while purple poppies are used to remember animal victims of war. Blue poppies are also often used as a symbol of remembrance in France. The purple poppy meaning remembers animal victims of war as equals in service.

When used in wartime commemorations, red poppies in particular are believed to represent respect and solemnity for fallen soldiers. The oriental poppy flower is also sometimes used for this purpose.

Black poppy flowers are also commonly used as a symbol of remembrance. They refer to black Africans and Caribbean contributions to war in the 16th century. For this reason, they are often used on remembrance day. The black poppy meanings also refer to pride, honor, and glory.

The California poppy is the state flower of California with the scarlet flower is the national flower of Albania. 

The symbolism of this meaningful flower doesn’t end there, though. It can also be seen as a symbol of imagination, messages delivered in mysterious dreams, beauty, success, luxury, extravagance, and even peace in death. 

All around the world, the meaning varies between countries but many cultures share at least one common meaning for the poppy flower. Lieutenant colonel John Mccrae wrote the poem In Flanders fields which used poppy flowers as a symbol of remembrance for a friend that died in war.

Poppies are said to blow between the crosses of fallen soldiers as the sunset glow. Poppies are often called sacrifice poppies after World War I.

In New Zealand, the poppy has special meaning, too. It is worn around Anzac Day, with Poppy Day being the Friday before Anzac Day in this country. Of all the types of poppy, red is the most common color worn for this event. 

What Does a Pink Poppy Mean? 

Pink isn’t the most common of the poppy colors you will find, but nonetheless, it brings a ton of meaning to the table. This color, along with the blue poppy, is connected to luxury, success, and imagination. You might have a hard time finding pink poppy seeds, however.

What Does a White Poppy Symbolize? 

The white poppy flower usually symbolize remembrance and peaceful rest. They are often tied to funerals and memorial ceremonies in the East. For this reason, you’ll often see white poppies on grave sites.

What Does a Red Poppy Mean?

The red poppy flower meanings are usually linked to consolation, remembrance, and death. It’s also used to symbolize love. Red poppy flowers are used as a way to recognize fallen soldiers – most notably those who died in the first world war and World War II.

However, in Eastern cultures, red flowers like poppies usually symbolize romantic love and success instead, a stark contrast to the solemn Western poppy symbolism. 

The reason red poppies are used for remembrance is due to seeing these flowers growing over the bodies of fallen soldiers. As a result, red poppies are believed to represent respect and solemnity.

There are also many myths associated with red poppies. If you want to express love, give your loved one red poppy flowers. You can also use red poppy flowers to pay your last respects.

Sometimes, the red poppy is used to symbolize luxurious pleasures and fantastic extravagance. You can count on the red poppy to say exactly what you want it to.

What is the Cultural Significance of the Poppies?

Every flower has its own significance in different cultures. Poppy flowers are entrenched in cultural significance. The Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians connected poppies with sleep because of the sedative nature of its sap.

In particular, the Greeks related the flower to Morpheus, the god of sleep. Today, opium which is extracted from poppy flower plant is used to make the drug morphine.

Victorians attributed numerous meanings to the flower, most of which varied depending on the color. It was most commonly used to represent loss, extravagance, and deep sleep. However, Japanese and Chinese cultures view poppy flowers as a representation of passionate and deep love in a couple. Poppies symbolize adoration and affection.

For instance, yellow poppies symbolize renewal and optimism. Artificial poppies were first sold in Brittian in 1921 to raise money for the Earl Haig Fund to support ex-servicemen. The lady who first made them is now known as the originator of “Poppy day”.

What is the Symbolism of a Poppy Tattoo?

Poppy flower tattoos are often chosen in shades of bright red, but it’s also common to find designs with black and gray tones to highlight the elegance and natural beauty of this flower. The poppy tattoo meaning is often used to commemorate soldiers fallen on the battlefield of Flanders fields, as well as to more generally symbolize life and death. 

If you get red poppy tattoos, it means you are comfortable with being alone. The red poppy meaning of the tattoo when drawn as a pair changes to symbolize fidelity and deep affection. The red poppy can also symbolize success. In some cases, the red poppy is used as a symbol of death in the world war Flanders fields.

When Should You Give Someone a Poppy Flower?

Poppies are perfect for gifting to people who have birthdays in August as a birth flower. Not only is the flower right in season at this time, but it is the classic flower that represents the birth month of August. 

However, you could also give poppies if you are attending a funeral, as it can symbolize recovery, eternal life, and restful sleep. It’s also representative for remembering the fallen armed forces. 

While the flower meanings of your poppy bouquet will vary depending on where you live, who you give these beautiful flowers to, and the color of the blooms, one thing is for sure – giving someone a bouquet of poppies is a surefire way to make a lasting impression. Are you keen to see poppies grow in your garden?

See our guide about growing poppies.

*Photo by imagebrokermicrostock/depositphotos

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