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Biology

The seedlings of this annual plant appear in spring (1). The flowers, which are present from April to August (5), are visited by a large range of insects, but particularly bees (2). Each plant is able to produce around 17, 000 seeds, these can remain dormant in the soil for 80 years or more, perhaps even as long as 100 years (1). Poppy seeds have been found in Egyptian relics dating from 2,500 BC, and the poppy has been a symbol of death and rebirth since these times; it grows in the fields, is cut with the harvest and always returns the following year (4). The profusion of poppies on the First World War battlefields of Ypres and the Somme struck a chord with all who saw them. The war-churned wasteland of mud, shell holes and broken bodies had been transformed into a dazzling display of wild flowers, healing the land (4). The poem 'In Flanders Fields' written by a Canadian volunteer medical officer in Ypres during the winter of 1915 was published around the world. Following the publication of this poem, the practice of wearing artificial poppies to commemorate Armistice Day on the 11th of November became very popular, and continues today. In Britain, the Royal British Legion uses the proceeds from poppy sales to help ex-servicemen and women (4).

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Source: ARKive

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