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I'll Never Forget The Moment I saw my first poppy field. I happened upon it while riding through the Kentish countryside of southeastern England, and the rich beauty of the wild corn poppies was breathtaking. Why does this memory still affect me so profoundly? Perhaps it was the abundance of all that shimmering red, or perhaps it was because the field seemed to me like a Monet painting come to life. Upon reflection, however, I think that my reaction had something to do with the contrast of the paperlike fragility of a single blossom to the boldness of the color.
The poppy could indeed be called a flower of paradox. Consider, for instance, the surprise of sunny, golden-orange Iceland poppies dotting a bleak subarctic tundra, their native habitat. Poppies are a diverse group; the poppy genus (Papaver) is only a part of the huge poppy family, Papaveraceae. Also included in the family are such familiar flowers as bloodroot, celandine poppy and California poppy.
My experience of seeing the English poppy field was recaptured for me last summer in the discovery of another poppy field in the mountainous countryside of western North Carolina. This field and similar areas had been artificially seeded by the North Carolina Highway Department, but the overall effect was just as pleasing. This particular field was filled with mixed colors of Shirley poppies.
When I first saw these poppies, their marvelous colors could be appreciated at their optimum, catching the light and appearing to …