Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


0631. As a child growing up in mid Dorset in the 1950s: poppy, Papaver rhoeas – the smell caused headaches [e-mail, March 2024].

2. [Alsace, France] Poppy flower-buds are used to make dolls.  My mum told me these dolls used to be called ‘sacristans’ (i.e. sextons).  They looked like church attendants, with the red dress and the green cape [e-mail, August 2017].

3.  I was born in 1989 in Cesena (FC), in the region of Emilia-Romagna, in northeast Italy. We used to pick poppy flowers, turn them upside down, and use them as little dolls (the red petals would have been the skirt of the doll). The first time I was told how to do this I was probably around 10, and it was one of my mum’s friends who taught me. She was probably around 42 years old then [University of the Arts London, October 2013].

2014-08-01 10.31.224. As a child during the early war years, when we were living on the Hants/Sussex border, not far from Petersfield, I well remember making ‘dollies’ from wild poppies [Wookey, Somerset, September 2012].

5. My girlfriend, who’s from Hungary – Budapest – made dolls from poppy flowers, turning down the petals and tying them down with a hair and pushing a bit of grass through to make the arms. All the children around Budapest did it [Borough, London, June 2009].

6. As children we turned poppy flowers inside-out to make little ladies. We tied them at the waist and spiked them with a spare stem to make arms. The fine, black stamens made an attractive neck ruff. Kent, 1940s [Weobley, Herefordshire, August 1998].

7. My mother would not allow us to bring poppies indoors, as she said they gave you headaches [University of Buckingham, April 1994].

8. Poppy – called the ‘heead-vahk’ (headache) – because it gives you one [Langtoft, Humberside, March 1985].

Images:  main, Crewkerne, Somerset, July 2014; upper inset, bench support with poppy motif, beside war memorial, Tisbury, Wiltshire, May 2015; middle inset, planted to commemorate the  centenary of the outbreak of World War I, Brockwell Park, London Borough of Lambeth, August 2014;  lower inset, poppy doll, made by Julia Ottery, St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, September 1992.