Les Coquelicots

May 25, 2015

Les Coquelicots

Les coquelicots is a poppy plant that also goes by the names Papaver rhoeas, common poppy, red poppy, corn poppy, corn rose, red weed, and field poppy. The latter names are a testament to their willingness to mix with important agricultural plants. Here in France are more of an agricultural pest; they grow quickly in disturbed soil and poppy seeds may lie dormant for up to eighty years, they readily grow amongst agricultural crops, and they grow so extensively that they could be confused for a crop themselves.

The only crop poppy is P. somniferum, the opium poppy.

Similarly, the ornamentally grown “Shirley Poppy” cultivar of P. rhoeas produces rhoeadine; the compound functions as a mild sedative and may alleviate morphine dependence.

Their appearance is not always correlated with their nuisance. They are a visible sign of springtime. In Old Europe they were associated with agricultural fertility. In Persian literature red poppies are the flower of love. Les Coquelicots is also the title of a painting that features the flowers by Claude Monet that currently rests at the Orsay Museum in Paris.

These red flowers are also associated with Memorial Day (U.S.), ANZAC Day (Australia), and Remembrance Day (other Commonwealth nations; alternatively “Poppy Day”). In the war-torn and shelled European countryside poppies appeared conspicuously before other plants. John McCrae, surgeon for Canadian Field Artillery during WWI, wrote his poem “In Flanders Fields” as the poppies sprung up between fresh graves. This inspired a later poem by Moina Belle Michael, then a professor at the University of Georgia, that appeared as red silk poppies began to be worn as a way to honor fallen soldiers. These and fresh flowers are still worn today.

These three poppy blossoms came from outside the Château Comtal in Carcassone, France–but be assured: they exist everywhere in France right now.

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