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 katanangkemeaning 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.
Linus Van Pelt said it best, so I will let him say it for himself:
There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.
Yes, you read that right, welcome to the end of October and the obligatory Halloween episode of Sarah Sexy Plants. What mayhem will us meddling kids get into today? Why, pumpkins of course! Continue reading →
Is there a more exotic and coveted flower that can be grown outside of the tropics? I think not. The Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a well loved garden specimen that provides the necessary food for many different butterfly larva and the fruit is enjoyed by wildlife as well as people. But if I asked you how it relates to human sexuality could you guess? Most likely you would deduce that it has been used as an aphrodisiac and you would be right, but not for the reasons you think…
The “passion” in passionflower doesn’t stand for any sort of amorous feelings at all. Instead, it is referring to the Passion of Jesus (passion literally translated from the Greek means “to suffer”) and the story surrounding the events of the crucifixion. Missionaries, attempting to convert the peoples of South America, discovered the passionflower and saw in it the symbols of the Passion: the leaves look like the lance that stabbed Jesus’s side, the tendrils were the whips, the five petals and five sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (no Judas or Peter), the ring of colored filaments represents the crown of thorns, and the three stigmas represent the three nails, etc etc etc. I think it might be a case of reading into things a bit too much, buy hey, the missionaries thought the presence of this flower was a sign from god to continue to convert the natives by any means necessary so… I don’t exactly trust their judgement, anyway. Continue reading →
The history of modern trees began in the carboniferous period, about 359 million years ago. I say “modern” plants, because it was during this time that true coniferous plants evolved. This reproduction method is still in use by modern species to great effect; pines, spruces, firs, and larches are all coniferous trees. The next period is the Permian which existed from 298.9 million years ago to 252 million years ago. It was during this time that the Ginkgo genus evolved.
Why is that so interesting? Well, at the end of the Permian period there was a mass extinction. And during this extinction a whopping 83% of all extant genera went extinct. But not Ginkgoaceae*. They went on to become a dominant tree species throughout the Mezozoic Era (the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods) and fossils from this era can be attributed to Ginkgo biloba. That means G. biloba has existed for over 250 million years! Continue reading →