Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Poppies in New Zealand

Note kindly supplied by Kathy Boyes, April 2019:

When I was a little girl in New Zealand in the 1950s, a ‘poppy show’ meant that you were showing your panties, for example by turning somersaults.  Mum used to recite this rhyme that she must have learned from her mother.  She was a tremendously prudish woman, but in this case she was only half serious:

I can see a poppy show                                                                                                All made of calico.

The reference to ‘calico’ indicates it must date back a fair way.  Grandma herself dated back to around 1880.  Our knickers were shop-bought cotton-knit ones – plainer, but not that different from today’s.

And no, poppies (Papaver rhoeas) aren’t native to New Zealand.  Then as now we sometimes saw them in public gardens, but most of the population only saw poppies on ANZAC Day, 25 April, which is like Remembrance Day for New Zealand and Australia: paper ones worn in the buttonhole.  These days they’re some sort of fabirc, but the custom is stronger than ever.

Image: wreaths placed at the base of the New Zealand Memorial, Hyde Park Corner, London, Anzac Day 2019.