If you’ve ever watched the classic film ‘The Wizard of Oz’, you may remember the scene where Dorothy and her companions are running through a seemingly never-ending field of red flowers. Dorothy and her dog Toto soon become very sleepy and are unable to stop themselves from dozing off amongst the flowers.
Frank Baum, author of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, based this scene on a flower called the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum, or ‘sleep-bearing poppy’, due to its sedating effects). The narcotic opium is derived from the opium poppy, along with other opiates including morphine, heroin and codeine.
So does that mean if you walk through a poppy field you’ll fall asleep? The answer is most definitely not. The common red poppy, which has come to symbolise Remembrance Day, only contains minute concentrations of opium. While the opium poppy contains a far greater concentration, simply walking through a field of them or even sniffing them will not cause sleep. The opium needs to be extracted from the poppy seedpods before it can have any effect.
In conclusion, whilst you might fall asleep in a poppy field, this will probably be because you are so relaxed in the beautiful surroundings, and not that you have been sedated by the flowers.
The poppy is the official flower of Norfolk and the county is blessed with many beautiful spreads of this flower. One notable place to see a carpet of red is Heacham on the east coast, overlooking The Wash. The poppy flowers from June right through to late summer and is a draw for photographers from miles around.
The official state flower of California is the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Growing in great abundance throughout the state, there are numerous varieties featuring different shades, from bright red, to golden orange, to sunshine yellow. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is a stunning place to visit when the poppies are flowering between February and May. The reserve features eight miles of trails through stunning poppy-covered hills.
During World War I, the fields in Northern France were torn apart by trenches, gunfire and explosions. After the war had ended, the poppy was one of the few flowers to grow on the battlefields. It is for this reason that the poppy has become the symbol of remembrance of the soldiers that died during the war. This region of France was previously known as Flanders, and it is in the poem ‘In Flanders Field’ that the symbolism of the poppy is first recognised. The fields in Nord-pas-de-Calais, now surrounding the war memorials, are still awash with bright red poppies in season.