The Poppies of Flanders Fields

Originally posted May 23, 2015 and not too subtly addressed to my children.

“In Flanders Fields” is a poem written by physician and poet John McCrae on May 3, 1915 (thanks, wikipedia!) after the death of a friend and fellow soldier in WWI.

Flanders, of course, refers to Belgium, specifically the western parts where during the Second Battle of Ypres, McCrae’s friend died. Apparently– and according to that infallible source— a consequence of battle at the time was an increase in the lime content of the soil and hence increased soil pH. Poppies like alkaline soil and poppy seeds need light to germinate. The increased pH and soil disruption were ideal. And so… .

Mother Nature covered freshly dug graves with red poppies.


[Here’s the Botanical Interests link.]

In years past I have posted the poem for both Memorial and Veterans’ Days. See here, here, and here. But I’ve come to understand that some readers– you know who you are and I know where you live!


don’t read what I quote. You just read what I write.

And so tonight I write a request. Go read the poem. Like Kilmer’s “Trees,” it’s one of many poems Granda Bobby could recite by heart. The First World War was not within his memory, but the memory of it was– he was born in ’29. It’s not the best poem ever written, but it’s not bad.

Read the poem and you might understand why old guys who served in Viet Nam or The First Gulf War or Afghanistan are passing out red paper poppies at Farmers’ Markets.

“If ye break faith…”