Cupid’s Dart: the Plant of Love Potions

February is upon us and that means it is the month of love. Certainly, there are the usual suspects when it comes to Valentine’s Day but I am hoping to dig a little deeper and find some of the other flowers of love and feature them this month.

And the first flower I want to highlight is known as Cupid’s Dart.

Cupid, of course, is known as the god of erotic love, desire, and affection in the Roman pantheon.  He was able to cause uncontrollable desire (or sometimes the opposite) to any individual who was struck with an arrow from his bow. So naturally a plant known as a Cupid’s Dart must cause unbridled desire.

Catanache caerulea photographed by Trisha M Shears

It doesn’t disappoint. The scientific name is Catananche caerulea.  The genus name comes from the Greek katanangke meaning strong incentive and references the prevalent belief that flower was best used as a base for love potions because of its extreme aphrodisiac qualities. In fact one of the best known qualities of this Mediterranean wildflower is the fact that Greek and Roman women used it in love spells. However, by the time the Victorian’s came along it had transmuted into a plant of purer love.

In more modern academia, there are new readings of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which argue that the “little western flower” that Puck is instructed to fetch is not Viola tricolor as is commonly thought but is, instead, the Cupid’s Dart.

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