DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Field poppies, Papaver rhoeas, growing on fallow land in Norfolk, UK. One plant of the red field poppy may produce approximately 17, 000 seeds. Buried in soil, these seeds can remain dormant but viable for at least 80 years. The random appearance of poppy plants in fields is due to the stimulation of seed germination following cultivation, which brings the buried seeds to the surface and into the light. Modern farming can eliminate seedling weeds by means of selective herbicides. However, any failure of vigilance may result in the return of poppies, and once they have seeded, they will patiently await their next opportunity to re-appear. This flourishing after soil disturbance is why the red poppy is sometimes called the Flanders poppy, and remains a symbol of the battlefields of the 1914-1918 war.
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