Sunday, June 5, 2016

Poppies Galore!!

Castiglion Fiorentino

As someone growing up in a military family, poppies hold a strong meaning to me. My family and I look at poppy flowers to symbolize our fallen heroes, whether they were a part of our family or not. I did not expect to see so many wild poppy flowers around Tuscany. I saw so many as the class took a walk around the hilly and warm Castiglion Fiorentino. In my mind, I always pictured sunflowers covering the landscape of Tuscany. I did not know that poppies were more of a common flower in Tuscany.

When researching poppy flowers, I found that poppy flowers started to appear in the Western Mediterranean region and was domesticated by people from the Central and Western European areas. The bright red poppies that I have seen here are the Papaver rhoeas. They are herbaceous plants and were used to symbolize sleep (opium in the plant was a sedative), peace (eternal sleep), and death (bright red color) in Roman mythology. This might explain why poppies are used to symbolize fallen soldiers. They have been used as medicine in ancient Egyptian times to relieve pain and swelling. Now, it is common to find the flowers in cough syrup, insomnia and nerve medication, as well as cooking and baking. When I thought of Tuscany, I always envisioned sunflowers. I did not, however, think poppies could be grown here. The season starts in the beginning of May and typically ends a few weeks after blooming. The poppies grow very well in Tuscany due to the exposure to sunlight and the heavy alkalines in the soil, thus the reason why poppies grow so well in the Tuscan sun.

The beautiful vibrant color creates a fantastic landscape around Tuscany, and it has now become one of my favorite flowers. Traveling to cities such as Florence and Arezzo, I have found many artists using poppies as inspiration for artwork, even more so than sunflowers! Now, when I think about Tuscany, I definitely picture beautiful red poppies stretching across this wonderful landscape.

Cassandra Stewart

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