Sunday, 14 November 2010

Common poppy - papaver rhoeas

This fragile annual has become the symbol of deaths in the first world war. It's bright red flower lasts a day. The vast fields of France and Belgium became the battlefields where war machinery, bombs, and trenches churned and undermined the ground, turning the landscape into a horrific wet muddy treeless  quagmire.  Thousands of young male conscripts died in this landscape, youths from all aspects of life, all social strata, a whole generation was wiped out. Britain still suffers from the trauma.
The poppy, almost certainly introduced by neolithic man and later farmers,  benefits from a disturbed habitat.  It's seeds can lie inactive for  hundreds of years then will germinate after disturbance. As the landscape healed so the poppies covered the fields with blood red flowers, and it is easy to see how they came to represent the dead soldiers. The war to end all wars!  That was the cry that went up after the bloodbath of the 1st world war.    Today, political leaders, military leaders, establishment leaders, and a whole mishmash of worthies lay wreaths at the cenotaph. This year it is almost politically incorrect not to wear a poppy on your lapel.  Do our 'leaders' feel guilty about  the wars they have recklessly started?  Is  that the reason they turn out every year looking pompous in their long expensive black coats?  When will they really  remember why they wear the poppy? It is to remind us to stop war forthwith.

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