Poppy Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The poppy is the birth flower for the month of August, and was originally thought to be native to Turkey, though it can be found all over the world. 

It’s considered a popular wildflower in the United States. Red is the most admired color when it comes to the poppy, but it can be found in different hues.

It can add a depth of meaning to any bouquet or flower arrangement, not only for its beauty and vivid color, but also for the symbolism the flower carries.

Where does the Name Poppy Come From?

There’s not a lot of weight behind the name. Poppy comes from the Old English word popig, derived from the Latin “papaver”, which translates as “to swell”.

It also refers to “pappa”, which is Latin for milk. If you break the stem of a poppy, you’ll see the thick, latex sap which can resemble milk. 

The common name for papaver somniferum is the opium poppy, or the breadseed poppy. Most types under this name don’t actually produce a lot of opium, and some don’t contain any latex at all.

That’s not all they are used for, though. These flowers are used to produce poppy seeds safe for us to eat, as well as many uses in the pharmaceutical industry. Each purpose uses a different type of poppy which is suitable for it. 

What does a Poppy Symbolize?

Thanks to its original use of producing opium, the poppy originally represented sleep, relief from pain and death. Often, they’re planted in graveyards for this reason.

They’re also used to symbolize remembrance, as poppies grew on battlefields of World War One after it ended, and it was believed that the red of the poppy embodied the blood of those who had died. They represent respect for those who have given their lives for their country, and those that have served during war and survived. 

The poppy is the national flower of Albania, and California uses the California poppy for its state flower.

Poppies also represent imagination, success, luxury, peace within death, and the messages that dreams may hold for us.

What does a Pink Poppy Represent?

While red is the most widely known color of a poppy, pink isn’t one to discount. It symbolizes luxury, success, and the power of imagination. It also gives a poppy a more delicate appearance. 

What does a White Poppy Mean?

White poppies represent respect for the dead, remembrance, and being at peace, as well as the absence of war. White poppies are also used to remember civilians who died during war. They’re often used at funerals and in graveyards. 

What does a Red Poppy Mean?

Red poppies bring messages of remembrance and consolation, as well as death. They usually represent soldiers who’ve died during the World Wars, and veterans that have served. 

For this reason, you’ll see a sea of red poppies when it comes up to the anniversaries of war, and the dates to commemorate those who died. 

In Eastern cultures, red poppies embody love and success. 

If you ever see a purple poppy among remembrance flowers, this usually commemorates the animals that have died during wars, usually the horses that carried soldiers, and dogs in the military. 

In Classical mythology, the vivid hue of a scarlet poppy promised that death was not the end, and resurrection would occur. 

What’s the Cultural Significance of a Poppy?

The Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks used the poppy as a symbol of sleep and death, as well as a treatment for insomnia, referring to the opium poppy. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were offerings for the dead.

The Greeks believed that the god of dreams, Morpheus, slept in a cave full of poppy seeds. This could be where the name “morphine” comes from, to refer to the immensely powerful painkiller, which is made from opium.

Victorians associated poppies with deep or eternal sleep and imagination. This also depended on the color, as red signified remembrance, white was for consolation, and yellow meant success.

In both Chinese and Japanese culture (see also Top 12 Flowers in Chinese Culture and Their Meanings), the poppy represents passionate love in a relationship, and the deep connection that two people can share. 

What does a Poppy Tattoo Mean?

Poppies are commonly used as symbols in tattoos, which are widely used to represent life and death, veterans, for remembrance of lost loved ones, and those who have died during war. They’re also used for their natural beauty in designs. 

When Should You Give Someone a Poppy?

Poppies can be given to someone at any time of year. It’s a good flower of choice for people born in August, as it’s the birth flower (see also 12 Months Of Birth Flowers: Origins, Meanings and Symbolism) for that month, as well as being the peak season for poppies.

Poppies are also used at funerals, to embody eternal life, rest, and recovery, though their passing is an awful thing, they won’t be forgotten. The memory of them will live on. 

You can also lay them at group memorials to symbolize that their memory, struggle, or tragic circumstances will never be forgotten, no matter how much time passes. 

While all flowers are beautiful, poppies hold a lot of significance, and the gravity of the meaning is deeper than other flowers, because of what they’ve been used to represent. 

Because of their significance to cultures throughout the world, any message you choose to say with a poppy is sure to be remembered. 

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