Biology Question #8630

bob, a 11 year old male from coquitlam asks on November 8, 2011,

Why did the poppies grow in Flanders fields?

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The answer

Sarah Chow answered on November 22, 2011

Some say the reason poppies grow on Flanders Fields is because the decomposing bodies from World War I give fertilizer and nutrients to the soil making it an ideal place for poppies to grow. This is an unlikely explanation as not all cementaries grow poppies.

The reason why poppies grow on Flanders Fields because poppies like cooler climates, and since Flanders Fields is actually a region emcompassing the Northern part of modern-day France and part of Belgium, it gets pretty cool in spring time, around 10 degrees celsius or below making it the ideal temperature for their growth. Poppies also like lots of sun, and what better way to get sunlight than in a vast war torn field where all the trees and buildings have been destroyed. Poppies can also reseed meaning they can scatter their seeds themselves to allow more poppies to grow, just like weeds.

Flanders Fields is actually not a field per se, but a region emcompassing the Northern part of modern-day France and Belgium. In the middle ages, this region used to be called County of Flanders. This region is important because of the greatest causalities during World World I, especially in the city of Ypres. This city was the ultimate battlefield, with three battles fought and a half a million lives lost. 

The author of the poem In Flanders Fields, John McCrae, was a medical officer stationed in Ypres. After witnessing the death of his friend Lt. Alexis Helmer, and presiding at his funeral, he was so moved by the poppies growing at this burial site, he wrote the classic poem. The poppies symbolize the blood lost in the war, and how beauty can still come about with such great loss.

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