In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row.
That agricultural weed, despised by European farmers came to be regarded as a symbol of the fallen soldiers thanks to the poem written by WWI Canadian, John McCrae, surgeon for the First Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery.
The seeds of the plant can lie dormant for 80 years (or more), but come to life when the soil's disturbed. And you know what? Artillery shells and trench warfare disturb a whole lot of soil.
In May 1915, McCrae was tending the wounded in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium. He noticed the bright red poppies that had begun to bloom between the many simple graves of soldiers, including near the spot where one of his best friends had recently been buried.
That inspired the poem, and within five years, the weed had become synonymous with remembrance - and with Memorial Day.