Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ve tasked myself with leading you on a meandering tour of the virtual garden of delights and curiosities and thoughts that make up my world – all through the lens of unusual, obscure, or simply charming-to-me words.
F is for…
florescence: a state or period of flourishing, of blossoming
If you know me, you understand I’d be hard-pressed not to include some flower-related word in my abecedarium. Today’s word fits that, even though the definition doesn’t strictly show it. Truth is that 18th century botany took to famously adapting Latin words, and they chose florescence to mean the blooming of a flower. From there it became more widely adopted to mean thriving in other contexts than just botany.
I’ve been thinking lots about flowers lately. Well that’s true always, but I saw the first tulip leaf poking up the other day, so I’m now eagerly anticipating the actual appearance of flowers here.
Most people know that each month has a gemstone associated with it, and it’s also true that there is a flower (or perhaps a couple) associated with each month as well.
I’m not sure where the custom began, and the more cynical explanation is likely florists wishing to encourage more sales. But I suspect it’s more complicated and nuanced that that.
Flowers have been used for decoration, for sacred purposes, perfumery, adornment, and for medicinal assistance probably forever, but it was the early Romans who began giving flowers as gifts. I like the idea of flowers offered as a little blessing – a wish that the “medicine” or mojo essence of the flower be gifted to the recipient. And, of course, back in the Victorian times, elaborate languages of flowers, floriography, were created to express sentiments not so easily shared overtly. Frankly I imagine it was quite fun crafting coded messages.
But how specific flowers got associated with specific months is a mystery to me. For some months it seems rather obvious that the most prevalent bloomers are chosen – March brings the daffodil; May the lilies-of-the-valley.
July, my birth month, is represented by the Larkspur (and also the water lily). Both are lovely flowers, with many members in their families, and I feel lucky to have both to choose from. And really, why settle for one, when you can have two? Still, here’s a photo of the lovely larkspur.
But let’s talk a little about Larkspur today. It’s a member of the buttercup family, and despite its lovely appearance, ingesting it is toxic. Look but don’t eat.
There’s a little mystery/controversy over Larkspur as the name is often used interchangeably with Delphinium. But current consensus is that Larkspur is an annual and Delphinium are perennials.
I’m always fascinated by creation tales and folklore, and years ago I heard a fabulous story about Larkspurs. I’ve never been able to track down a specific credited story, but the sort of generic tale credited to an unspecified Native American Nation, says a sky dweller tore open the night sky with a spike so she could climb down and visit Earth. It turns out bits of sky got stuck to the spike, and as she climbed down the sun dried out the spike and bits of sky. These bits then disintegrated and were scattered across the Earth and thus became our beautiful Larkspur flowers. I can never look at Larkspurs without thinking of that charming tale.
Lest you think they’re just pretty flowers, they have a hard-working history as well. They’ve been used to create ink, dyes, used externally as medicine, and even deliberately as poison. But I’ll enjoy them just as the delightful blooms of my birth month.
In the true spirit of florescence, I wish as Thich Nhat Hanh so beautifully said: “May our heart’s garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.”
Do you know flower is associated with your birth month? I’d love to hear which. Is it one of your favorites? Have you ever gifted someone, or yourself, a specific type of flower because of it’s meaning? Is there something you want to celebrate that’s blossoming in your life at the moment? Do tell – you know I love to hear.