Monthly Archives: July 2012

The language of wild flowers

Agapanhtus Peter Pan / Agapanthus africanus / Image: pendernursery.com

What can a wild flower offer you more than its amazing colour or alluring fragrance? A coded message allowing you to express a feeling which could not be spoken.  The language of flowers, sometimes called  floriography,  is a Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send secret messages. This message was most commonly communicated through Tussie-Mussies or nosegays:  small, round bouquets of herbs and flowers selected with ­symbolic meanings.

The symbolic meaning of Agapanthus is magical love of love letter, and is derived for the Greek agape meaning “love” and anthos meaning “flower”. But be carefull when selecting the Peter Pan variety for you love may be magical but not grow beyond childhood!

Chincherinchee / Ornithogalum thyrsoides / Image: cape-hike.co.za

Chincherinchee’s symbolic message can be derived from its botanical name Ornithogalum meaning “bird’s milk” – something wonderful regarding to the Romans. It has been cultivated in Europe since 1750, indeed a wonderful South African export, but comes with a warning – the plant is toxic to livestock but fine for baboons!

Nerine / Nerine sarniensis / Image: plants.newplant.co.za

Nerine is named after the mythological sea-nymph and its symbolic meaning “allusion” is derived from its colourful history.  The epithet sarniensis refers to the Island of Sarnia, the Roman name for Guernsey, where Nerine sarniensis was said to be washed ashore form a foundered ship. Whatever the truth is about Nerine’s arrival in Guernsey, it should be worth it to explore the hidden meaning of the flower’s allusion…

Pink / Dianthus caespitous / Image: newplant.co.za

A flower with such a simple name’s meaning can be derived from the Greek dios “divine” and anthos “flower” – thus Pink is a divine and bold flower with medicinal and magical properties.

The symbolic meaning of flowers can be contradicting as beautifully portrayed in the novel “TheLanguage of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbauch.  I invite you to play with the interpretations and send your contributions to expand the list of possibities.

May you be surprised by the wonderful and meaningful “gift” of wild flowers!

Agapanthus

Bloulelie

Agapanthus   africanus

Magical love / Love letter

April fool

Veldskoenblaar/ Kwaslelie

Haemanthus   sanguineus

Be stopped in your tracks

Arum lily

Varkoor / Varkblom   / Arondskelk

Zantedeschia aetiopica

Purity

Babiana

Bobbejaantjie

Babiana nana

Pleasure

Blue mountain sage

Bloublomsalie

Salvia stenophylla

Clarity

Blushing bride

Trots van   Franschoek

Serruria florida

Glimpse of love

Buchu      

Boegoe

Agathosma capensis

Acquaintance

Candelabra flower

Koningskandelaar /   Perdespookbossie

Brunsvigia   orientalis

Be surprised

Cape chamomile

Kaapse kamille

Eriocephalus panctulatus

Transition

Cape may

Aasbossie /   Konfettibos

Coleonema album

Cleansing

China flower

Kommetjieteewater

Adenandra obtusata

Refreshment

Chinkerinchee

Tjinkerintjee

Ornithogalum   thyrsoides

Wonderful

Clivia / Bush lily

Clivia

Clivia miniata

Good fortune

Crane flower

Kraanvoëlblom

Strelitzia reginae

Regal / Fabulous

Disa

Disa

Disa uniflora

Seduction

Dune Bluebell

Bluebell

Gladiolus rogersii

Grateful

Erica / Heath

Erika / Heide

Erica regia

Enticement

Everlasting

Sewejaartjie

Edmondia sesamoides

Never-ceasing remembrance

Featherhead

Juffertjie-roer-by-die-nag   / Roemenaggie / Aandgonna

Struthiola argentea

Allurement

Fire lily

Vuurlelie /   Bredasdorp lelie

Cyrtanthus guthrieae

Passionate

Freesia

Freesia

Freesia alba

Lasting friendship

Geranium /   Crane’s-Bill

Wilde geranium

Geranium incanum

I will think about it

Gerbera

Baberton daisy

Gerbera jamesonii

Cheerfulness /   Innocence

Gladiolus

Aandblom

Gladiolus tristis

Magical memories

Iris

Iris

Dietes iridoides

I have a message for you

Ixia

Perdestertjie

Ixia micranda

Delicate pleasure

Koekemakranka

Koekemakranka

Genthyllis afra

Virility

Kooigoed

Kooigoed

Helichrysum odoratissimum

Intuition  / Compassion

Kranz aloe

Kransaalwyn

Aloe arborescens

Evanescent

March lily

Maartlelie

Amaryllis   belladonna

Splendid beauty

Mountain rose

Skaamroos

Protea nana

Shy but courageous

Nerine

Nerina

Nerine sarniensis

Allusion

Pincushion

Speldekussing

Leucospermum   cordifolium

Endurance

Pink / Carnation

Angelier

Dianthus basuticus

Divinity / Boldness

Sugarbush

Bredasdorp   suikerbos

Protea obtusifolia

Courage

Watsonia

Rooipypie

Watsonia zeyheri

Chastity

Wild dagga

Wilde dagga

Leonotis leonurus

Euphoria

Wild fennel

Wilde fennel

Foeniculum vulgare

Refresh

Wild garlic

Wilde knoffel

Tulbaghia violacea

Wholesome

Wild mint

Wilde ment

Menta longifolia

Virtue / Warmth of feeling

Wild rose geranium

Roos malva

Pelargonium capitum

Balance

Wild rosemary

Kapokbos

Eriocephalus   paniculatus

Warm emotions /   Remembrance

Sweet lessons from sugarbush

Protea obtusifolia Image: www.fynbos.co.za

Protea obtusifolia / Sugarbush / Bredasdorp suikerbos / Image: www.fynbos.co.za

When a flower like sugarbush becomes so well-known that it inspires a song, its  familiarity becomes boring and we tend to fail seeing its beauty.  In my search for exotic fragrances I’ve focused on more extravagant flowers and their seductive smells and overlooked the simple pleasures that protea brings.

If I have to choose only one flower to take with me on a trip for sweet memories from home it would be the Bredasdorp suikerbos.  This protea will provide sensual comfort with its distinct fynbos fragrance, velvety touch and bold fire truck colour.   And should I need some extra comfort I could visualize myself as a sugarbird or bee and snuggling into the sugary flower head.

The protea family was named after the sea-god Proteus in Greek mythology, and according to the language of flowers protea symbolizes courage.  In her book “In Celebration of Fynbos” Petra Vandercasteel summarizes the myth of consulting with Proteus: “When you have an urgent question about your way in the world and you already know the answer but it fails to satisfy you, going to great lengths to find the answer will only bring you back to what you already know.”

Sugarbush awarded me with some valuable lessons about looking for fresh answers in a familiar situation. May you have the courage to search for your sweet answers!