I remember planning a fundraiser for my FFA Chapter in high school. My best friend and I were in charged of the Valentine’s Day flower sale. We had this bright idea of selling flowers with meanings behind the type of flower and it’s color. Our unique fundraiser was successful! As the years went on and my love for plants grew, my inner and outer circles got the hint that plants were a huge part of my life. People sent me plants memes or random plants facts that brightened up my day. My indirect colleague tagged me in a post on Facebook, that recently popped up on my Facebook Timeline, about “Insult Bouquets”. Today’s article is going to be on the history of these Insult Bouquets and where they originated from, flowers and their meanings that went into an insult bouquet, and I am going to get creative and share my top five flowers that I would add into an insult bouquet.
Insult Bouquets were popular during the Victorian Era, which was from 1837 to 1901. During the Victorian Era, that’s when we start to see flowers start to have meaning in communication. There were floral dictionaries to accompany the budding floriography, the language of communicating through flowers. As the practice of botany became popular, flowers developed meanings and throughout time. We see forms of floriography in the Bible and in Shakespeare, specifically in Ophelia. Overtime, writers and botanist wrote books on decoding meanings of flowers since sending bouquets were such a huge craze. Two books that are out there is Le Language de Fleursand written in Paris 1819 as one of the earliest floral dictionaries and there is Flora Symbolica by John Ingram. Flora Symbolica was not just a dictionary, it was also an etiquette guide on giving the correct flower(s) to give the correct message. There are so many pieces of literature that share meanings of plants, flowers, and herbs to give either a meaningful message or an insult.
I feel that the Victorian era was a very dainty and proper era. Things like flirting or talking about relationships were taboo. Flowers had the ability to say things that people could not say. Angelica meant inspiration, pink carnations meant I’ll never forget you, red chrysanthemums meant I love you, Daisy meant innocence, and Heliotrope meant enteral love. There are so many other flowers that have meaning to them - the link to the list is at the bottom of the page. When we arrange these flowers; they become an overall meaning. Combing gardenia, calla Lily, and red roses would mean “I love you my beautiful, secret love”. Taking oak leaves and combining them with hollyhock would pass on a message of “one having strength and ambition” which would be a wonderful, positive message to a friend. Give a Sunflower steam would mean that you adore someone. These positive messages could end up being the start of something new when it comes to the matters of the heart or it can show appreciation to people who are close to you. However, not all flowers represent positive affirmations. People during the Victorians Era also sent insult bouquets to send messages of rejection from a lover or to send a petty message. Begonia means beware, Butterfly Weed means let me go, yellow Carnation means rejection, and cyclamen means goodbye. A bouquet of blue hyacinth and geraniums combined would send a message of “you’re consistent with your stupidity”. Sending an orange lily stem would symbolize hatred, and a bouquet of lavender would represent distrust.
The possibilities to send flowers as messages are endless. We still send flowers today. We have flowers for weddings, funerals, and Valentine’s Day. Flowers still have meanings to them but the times have changed the way we communicate. It is so easy for us to send a snarky and passive aggressive messages behind our phones where insult bouquets are no longer needed. We can simply log into Facebook and leave that snarky message or tweet something petty on Twitter. In no way I am encouraging using the ability to be mean; I believe in harmonizing with those around you and being kind to everyone. We have the ability to vocalize taboo thoughts that people during the Victorian Era could not do. If insult bouquets were a thing of the present since the field of botany as grown tremendously, I would include these flowers with the following meanings:
Straw Flower (Xerochrysum bracteatum): Fake appearance/fake personality
Cactus Blossom (Mammillaria spinosissima, or any flowering variety): Betrayal
Stock (Matthiola incana): Strongly dislike [SIDE NOTE: Stock is a flower I am not fond of]
Oleander (Nerium oleander): toxic personality
Solidago (Solidago canadensis): annoyance
Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) displaying weak qualities
If you were able to create an insult bouquet what flowers would you use? What would their meaning be in them? Thank you so much for reading my blog article on Insult Bouquets! Have you ever given a message through flowers? What was the meaning behind it? Comment below!
I would like to dedicate this blog post to a very, forever special individual in my life. My coworker Mike who is now resting in paradise. Even though he did not like flowers or anything with roots, he would definitely would love a good laugh by sending an insult bouquet. Thank you for everything you’ve taught me for the past eight years of my life at the Garden Center. Thank you for being an uncle figure in my life. You weren’t just a coworker, you were my friend. I will miss you so much.
My coworker, who really enjoys Greek Mythology, recently asked me if I knew if certain flower names were connected to Greek Mythology. I could tell my coworker that I am just familiar with the Hades and Persephone story. During our talk about such a complex theology, I looked up some of these plant names connected to Greek Mythology; it just happens Narcissus, Hyacinth, and Liriope were a few names that popped up on Google that I am definitely familiar with while working at a garden center. Upon further research, Ancient Greece flourished with plants and flower references in their mythology.
Greek mythology was used by Ancient Greece to tell stories about myths and folklore. These stories included how the world came to be through their origins, heroes, deities, and mythological creatures. The flowers and plants that are mentioned throughout Greek mythology is on an anthropology scale more than an ethnobotany scale because anthropology looks at culture and development instead of plant usage. Upon my research, I have learned that there are many different types or flora that have been mention in these ancient myths. I have taken four different plants off of a list from the Theoi Project (link at the end of my article) that stood out to me the most. Three of the plants have a connection to my life and one plant is a wild card.
I remember when I ate my first, FRESH fig. They were all ready to picked on one of the bushes at my first garden center that I ever worked at. My one coworker harvested two of them and she gave one to me. She said figs were the fruit of the gods. She was not wrong on that statement. In the story of Zeus battling the Titans, Gaia (a primordial deity, Earth, mother of Titans) turned her son, Sykeus, into a fig tree (a Ficus variety from my interpretation) to protect him. Demeter, goddess of Agriculture, gave and created the first cultivated fig as a thank you for Phytalos’s hospitality. Demeter was known to bestow gifts for the hospitality that she received from others. The figs are also mentioned in the story of the eight forest nymphs. Each nymph presided over a certain type of tree. The nymph, Skye, is the nymph of the fig tree. Branches of figs saved Odysseus from being sucked into a whirlpool. Figs or anything in the Ficus family has not only been mentioned in Greek Mythology but the origins has been mentioned in Egyptian mythology and in Christianity as well. The mythological and biblical origins of this plant has been used in different ways.
One trip that I took in college was to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. In the huge conservatory, they had different areas dedicated to different plants. One area had this magnificent tree and I was truly captivated by its beauty was an Olive tree. I have always known that Olive trees represented peace in Christianity. The connection between my religion and plants has been really dear to me. The Olive tree is very important in Greek culture and has strong representation in Greek mythology. In one myth, Athena, goddess of war and craft, and Poseidon, god of the sea, had a contest to see who take Athens. Zeus told the both of them that whoever produced the best gift can take the city. Poseidon created the horse and Athena created the first olive tree growing out of rock from Acropolis. Acropolis is known as a historical site that dates back to the late Cretaceous period. Acropolis of Athens holds amazing cultural history to the Greeks and home to a lot Temples. The gods felt that Athena’s creation was better than Poseidon’s and gave Athena the city of Athens. In the story about a maiden named, Moria who was very close to Athena was turned into a scared Olive tree when Moria died. Zeus crowned winners at the Olympian Games with Olive branches as crowns. Beyond the Greek mythology of the Olive tree, they are also known as one of the most important tree of Greek culture. Olive trees had multiple uses in the Old World. Olive trees produced olives for food as well as oil. Olive oil was used for cooking and aiding in light source. Sometimes the oil was used as perfume or in hair. Olive oil was also used as a cure all medicine according to Hippocrates, the founder of medicine and Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, suggested it be used as a contraceptive.
My professor from my horticultural soils class had me read the story of Hades and Persephone. This story mentioned the Narcissus and why their bloom time is when it is in the early spring. The story goes that Hades, god of the underworld, fell in love with Persephone, goddess of springtime. Hades tricked Persephone by going into the underworld which caused her mother Demeter to search everywhere. Demeter made herself into the underworld to get her daughter back but Hades already convinced Persephone to eat the pomegranate seeds. Once you eat in the Underworld, you cannot leave and this was the way that Hades would keep Persephone all to himself. Demeter was furious. Both Demeter and Hades made a deal that Persephone would live in the underworld for six months and return to back to earth. This represents the season - Persephone living with Hades represents plants going into dormancy for the fall and winter months and Persephone returning back to earth represents plants coming out of dormancy in the spring and summer. To celebrate Persephone’s return, the Narcissuses bloom as well as the crocus. The mentioned of Narcissus does not stop there with Greek Mythology. There is a story of the Greek goddess of punishment of evil deeds, Nemesis (another type of flower) punished Narkissos to fall in love with his reflection because he would scorn those who would try and court him. Narkissos was so obsessed with his image that he slowly faded away and turned into the Narcissus flower, or in that family that we know today. As I reflect on this mythology story, I do have a hunch that Narcissus could also mean the Paperwhite flower because the Paperwhites are botanically a Narcissus. Narkissos’s mother, Leiriope whose name meant “Face of the Narcissus” was nymph. The mythology of Narkissos and Leiriope is why we have the flowers Narcissuses and Daffodils.
Plants are filled with surprises - from new growth to reseeding itself and even when new blooms shine. A plant’s lifecycle will always amaze me. As I explore ethnobotany by learning about plant origins or taking a mental trip back into the ancient world, the lightbulb shines a little bit brighter and my love for plants grows stronger in my heart. Unfortunately, I do come across plants that just does not grow on me. One plant that comes to mind is the Strawflower because I do not like how they look after you dead head, I am definitely not a fan of the textured flower, I feel that they just do not give enough color. These opinions of mine have really allowed me to block out the plant entirely and it will never be sought to be planted by me; however, the ability to research and to learn stories of plants can immediately change a plant’s reputation to oneself. Strawflower, also called Helichrysum is known as the everlasting flower in Greek Mythology. Helichrysum was dried out to decorate the temples of the gods in the ancient world. When the plant is dried out, the flower stays intact perfectly which is why it’s known to have a sense of immortality in folklore. In Homer’s the Odyssey, the king’s daughter, Nausicaa gave Ulysses a vile of the extract of Helichrysum to help him recover to regain his strength. The ancient Greeks used the properties of Helichrysum for healing. It is amazing
The origins of plants and stories of how things came to be through mythology is amazing. These stories have been passed down from generation to generation on how things came to be or how these plants are utilized. This what ethnobotany, as well as anthology is all about. There are so many other plants that have been mentioned in mythologies from different cultures and folklore throughout time. Thank you so much for reading my findings of a topic that I am truly passionate about! Comment, like and share for a part two.
All plants are our brothers and sisters.
One thing I have been aware of is when aMercury goes into Retrograde! Three or four times a year, Mercury goes past Earth with the optical illusion that is it spinning backwards. This illusion is known for shaking things up within the Zodiac signs affecting each one of them differently. I also realized that it’s a running joke - but taking into consideration with my one group of friends. Your favorite plant girl is a Scorpio and I recently got a white sage, Salvia apiana (also referred as White Sage) , to cast bad vibes out of my home during this period of Retrograde to be safe. I got my white Sage plant from work, that came from my organic plant supplier. One thing that stands out from this company is their tags. The tags are filled with really cool information. One thing that stood out on this tag was how American Indians used it and that the Sage had ceremonial properties. One thing that we need to remember about Ethnobotany is how cultures and civilizations used plants. My page about Ethnobotany is giving us the opportunity to take a stroll back into time and to learn how plants were used before us.