In 2016, a study was conducted to determine the total number of flowering plants, resulting in an estimated count of approximately 369,400 species. Each of these plants possesses the power to inspire and captivate, and their beauty is revered by people worldwide. Flowers not only serve as objects of aesthetic appreciation but also hold symbolic value in various contexts. From addressing global issues like climate change and sustainability to marking significant life events, such as births, weddings, and funerals, flowers carry deep meaning for individuals. Moreover, there have been instances throughout history where flowers played a role in shaping significant moments. Here are five such historical moments where flowers left their mark.
Vincent van Gogh, a renowned artist, found a deep fascination with sunflowers, which became an integral part of his artistic career. While he produced numerous masterpieces throughout his life, his paintings of sunflowers hold a special place of significance. In a letter to his brother Theo, van Gogh expressed his connection to the flower, stating, "You know that Jeannin has the peony, Quost has the hollyhock, but I have the sunflower, in a way."
Sadly, van Gogh's art did not receive much recognition during his lifetime. He completed a total of 12 sunflower paintings, and in the same letter to his brother, he estimated that one of them would sell for approximately 500 French francs, which he considered satisfactory. This amount is equivalent to around £66 in today's currency. However, the value and appreciation for his work grew significantly after his death. Today, his sunflower paintings are highly sought after and have been auctioned off for millions of dollars, illustrating the enduring impact and lasting significance of his artistic contributions.
The poppy flower holds a profound paradox, symbolizing both the good it brings and the suffering it has caused throughout history. In 1804, German chemist Friedrich Wilhelm Serturner isolated the component of opium that would later become the powerful painkiller morphine. He named it morphium, after Morpheus, the Greek God of dreams.
The therapeutic benefits of morphine were highly sought after, leading to the emergence of "opium dens" in London and other places, where individuals sought the next dose, resulting in an epidemic. However, morphine's pain-relieving properties have been instrumental in medical treatments, including the alleviation of pain in cancer patients and post-surgical recovery.
During World War I, the poppy flower took on a symbolic meaning. As soldiers marched across fields and countryside, devastating the landscapes, specific conditions in 1915 led to the emergence of something beautiful from the desolation. Poppy seeds, which can remain dormant for extended periods, sprouted in the disturbed soil, and the hot spring that year caused Flanders Field in Ypres to burst into a vibrant sea of red.
This image deeply moved many soldiers, and Major John McCrae, a Canadian soldier, immortalized it in his poem "In Flanders Field." The poppy has since become a symbol of remembrance for those who fought and died not only in World War I but in conflicts around the world. It serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made and the enduring resilience of humanity.
The lotus flower is renowned for its captivating beauty and intriguing behavior. One of its notable characteristics is its ability to open and close, with the petals closing at night in a process known as nyctinasty. The reasons behind this behavior have fascinated people throughout history.
In Ancient Egypt, the blue lotus, also known as the blue water lily, held great significance. It adorned jewelry, embellished numerous papyrus paintings, and even appeared in wreaths found in Tutankhamun's tomb. The blue lotus was associated with various aspects of Egyptian culture, including spirituality, rebirth, and fertility.
Interestingly, recent research has revealed that the blue lotus contains apomorphine, a substance known for its potential in treating male sexual dysfunction. It appears that the Ancient Egyptians were aware of this particular property of the flower, further emphasizing its connection to fertility and sexuality in their culture.
The blue lotus and its symbolism continue to captivate people today, drawing us into the mysteries and beauty of this remarkable flower.
The daffodil holds a special place in English literature, being celebrated in one of the country's most renowned poems. Interestingly, despite this association, it is Wales that proudly embraces the daffodil as one of its national symbols.
While the daffodil is widely recognized as a symbol of Wales, it is not the sole representative plant of the country. Throughout history, dating back to the 16th century, noblemen and kings in Wales have adorned themselves with the leek, which they would pin to their garments. One can only imagine the unique scent it must have emitted.
It is noteworthy that the Welsh word for daffodil, 'Cenhinen Bedr,' translates to St Peter's Leek. This shared name with Wales' original symbol may have played a role in the daffodil's rise to prominence in the 19th century. Additionally, the daffodil's pleasant fragrance when worn could also contribute to its popularity.
The rose is not only a popular name for girls and a beloved fragrance in perfumes, but it also holds historical significance and symbolizes love. In the context of England, the rose became intertwined with the Wars of the Roses, which were a series of conflicts that spanned several decades.
The Wars of the Roses were characterized by a power struggle for the English crown between two rival houses: the Yorks and the Lancasters. The conflict arose due to the lack of a direct heir to the Lancastrian King Henry VI. Over the course of the wars, King Henry was captured and released multiple times, until he was ultimately assassinated in the Tower of London by the Yorkists.
The battles between the two houses resulted in the deaths of many prominent figures from both sides. It was not until Henry Tudor, a distant Lancastrian relative, defeated the remaining Yorkists at the Battle of Bosworth and married Elizabeth of York that the wars came to an end, bringing peace between the families.
During the Wars of the Roses, the white rose was the recognized symbol of the Yorkists, while the red rose officially became associated with the Lancastrians following Henry Tudor's victory. However, when Henry married Elizabeth, the two roses were combined to create the Tudor rose, symbolizing the unity between the Yorks and the Lancasters.