All of us are guilty of reducing flowers to the level of the Facebook ‘like’. It’s become the default place-holder reaction when you have pretty much nothing to say. No wonder, it’s raining bouquets on birthdays, death days, victories, defeats, induction ceremonies, farewell bashes, wedding receptions and after-divorce parties. The ugly truth is that, but for a handful of florists, no one knows a thing about any flower—be it daisies or daffodils. All we can talk about is the superficials.
Let me attempt to change things around by serving you some dew fresh trivia that will hopefully make your conversations more flowery.
For every sunflower you’ve chanced upon, there’s a moonflower (a species of morning glory that resembles the full moon) blossoming at night. And somewhere in the North American woodlands, during May and June, one can sight the starflower belonging to the primrose family.
Talking of the rose, several stars have had variants named after them. Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Lady Gaga and Dolly Parton are among the beauties who got lucky. Among male celebs Cary Grant, Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent have been chosen for the rare honour. Aishwarya Rai is the only Indian to enjoy this privilege. She has a Dutch tulip against her name.
Quite a few famous flowers have been christened after its discoverers: dahlia is not a nod to Roald Dahl but Swedish botanist Anders Dahl; plumeria (aka Frangipani) is an ode to seventeenth century French naturalist Charles Plumier; the world’s largest flower, Raflessia Arnoldi, is a twin tribute to the founder of Singapore, Sir Thomas Raffles and his friend Dr Joseph Arnold; while gardenia owes its existence to Scottish zoologist Dr Alexander Garden.
Sometimes shapes influence the moniker. Dandelion is derived from the French phrase dent de lion, which is a reference to the lion-tooth like leaf. The orchid’s tuber resembles testicles, hence orchi (Greek word for the male gonads) was deployed as the root word for the flower name. Since science is gender neutral, you also have the ‘Clitoria Ternatea’, an efflorescence that bears a striking similarity to the female genitals.
Some flora are the offspring of colours. Lilac (from Sanskrit word nilak meaning bluish), chrysanthemum (Latin for golden flower) and iris (Greek for rainbow) are the most fragrant examples. My mind is budding with many more tales. Will weave that garland some other day.