The red poppies that are blooming along North Carolina highways were planted by N.C. Department of Transportation crews, and they have a special meaning
The flowers were planted in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entering World War I and are in memory of servicemen and women killed during the war.
The NCDOT and the state Natural and Cultural Resources Department partnered to plant the flowers in honor of the centennial anniversary.
The red poppy is the official emblem of remembrance of the American Legion, and has been used as a symbol to commemorate war dead since World War I. It was inspired by the opening lines of Canadian Army officer John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field,” written during World War I after McCrae noticed the poppies blooming around the mass graves of soldiers on the battlefields.
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Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and transportation secretary Jim Trogdon issued statements Monday acknowledging the cooperation between the two departments.
“These flowers are a wonderful way to honor the memory of our World War I veterans,” Hamilton said. “And I hope that people who see them will be inspired to reflect on those who died in service to our country.”
DOT’s Wildflower Program, which began in 1985, is a state highway beautification project. Wildflower beds are installed and maintained across the state by crews in each of the 14 highway divisions.
North Carolinians served in all the major battles of the Western Front in 1918. They fought in the battles of 2nd Marne, St. Mihiel, and in the Meuse-Argonne, the last major campaign of the war. As part of the British army, Tar Heels in the 30th Division fought in Belgium and France. In five months of action in 1918, the United States had more than 275,000 casualties with more than 50,000 deaths. Nearly 2,400 North Carolinians died during World War I from battle and disease.
The DOT flower beds also compete in an annual Wildflower Awards program.
Last week, DOT divisions across the state were recognized for their flower beds by the department and the Garden Club of North Carolina. Nearly 200 people attended the awards program, including first lady of North Carolina, Kristin Cooper.
“From improving the environment to encouraging economic development and tourism, the dildflower program not only makes our roadways more attractive, but it also contributes to North Carolina’s overall quality of life,” Trogdon said.
The awards were given for flower beds that bloomed in 2016. The winners were:
Best Overall Division Wildflower program:
▪ First Place – Division 11, which includes Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.
▪ Second Place – Division 4, which includes Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson counties.
William D. Johnson Daylily Award:
▪ First Place – Division 13 – I-240 Median at Mile Marker 4 in Buncombe County.
▪ Second Place – Division 12 – I-85/U.S. 74 in Gaston County.
Best Regional Wildflower Planting, Eastern Region:
▪ First Place – Division 2 – U.S. 264 at Mozingo Road in Pitt County.
▪ Second Place – Division 4 – U.S. 117 in Wayne County.
Best Regional Wildflower Planting, Central Region:
▪ First Place – Division 9 – U.S. 52 at Perch Road in Forsyth County.
▪ Second Place – Division 10 – I-85 North at Graham Street in Mecklenburg County.
Best Regional Wildflower Planting, Western Region:
▪ First Place – Division 12 – I-85/U.S. 74 in Gaston County.
▪ Second Place – Division 11 – I-77 at Jonesville Road in Yadkin County.
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett