More plants of love

Following on yesterday’s posting on agapanthus (roughly ‘flower of love’), here are a few more plants of love. Five plants that I grew back in Columbus.

First, two genuses of plants with the Greek ‘love’ root phil- in their scientific names: Philodendron and Philadelphus.

From OED3 (June 2011) on philodendron:

[etymology] < scientific Latin Philodendron, genus name (H. W. Schott 1829, in Wien. Zeitschr. 3 780) < Hellenistic Greek ϕιλόδενδρον, neuter of ϕιλόδενδρος fond of trees ( < ancient Greek ϕιλοphilo- comb. form + δένδρον tree: see dendro- comb. form), in reference to the epiphytic habit of most members of the genus.

[definition] A genus of tropical American evergreen plants (family Araceae), chiefly lianas, some species and hybrids of which are cultivated as house plants

Philodendron serves as the common name of the plants. Here’s a classic house plant species:

and a climbing Philodendron lacerum:

From OED3 (Dec. 2005) on philadelphus:

[etymology] < scientific Latin Philadelphus, genus name (Linnaeus Species Plantarum (1753) I. 470) < post-classical Latin philadelphus (C. Bauhin Πιναξ Theatri Botanici (1623) 398) < ancient Greek ϕιλάδελϕος loving one’s brother (see philadelphian adj.1 and n.1), in Hellenistic Greek also used as a plant name.

[definition] A genus of the family Hydrangeaceae, comprising chiefly deciduous shrubs with fragrant white or cream flowers, native to north temperate zones; … any plant of this genus, esp. the popular garden shrub P. coronarius and its numerous cultivars and hybrids. Also called mock orange, syringa.

No account of why the plant came to be the flower of brotherly love in Hellenistic Greek.

Here’s a photo of the species P. lewisii in bloom:

Now on to three plants with love in one of their common names: love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena),  lad’s love (Artemisia abrotanum), and love lies bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus).

From the Wikipedia entry for Nigella damascena:

Nigella damascena (Love-in-a-mist) is an annual garden flowering plant, belonging to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).

It is native to southern Europe (but adventive in more northern countries of Europe), north Africa and southwest Asia. It is also commonly grown in gardens in North America. It is found on neglected, damp patches of land.

The plant’s common name comes from the flower being nestled in a ring of multifid, lacy bracts. It’s also sometimes called Devil-in-the-Bush.

(Multifid in OED3: ‘Divided into several or many parts by deep clefts or notches’.)

So the flowers are symbols of female genitals. A photo:

The plant self-sows freely, comes in a variety of colors, and cross-breeds easily.

From the Wikipedia entry for southernwood:

Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) is a flowering plant. Found in Europe, the genus Artemisia was named for the goddess Artemis. Southernwood is known by many other names including Old Man, Boy’s Love, Oldman Wormwood, Lover’s Plant, Appleringie, Garderobe, Our Lord’s Wood, Maid’s Ruin, Garden Sagebrush, European Sage, Lad’s Love, Southern Wormwood, Sitherwood and Lemon Plant.

… The Romans believed it protected men from impotence. It is also said that young men in areas like Spain and Italy rubbed fresh southernwood leaves (which were lemon-scented) on their faces to promote the growth of a beard.

In rural areas, where southernwood was known as Lad’s Love and Maid’s Ruin, the herb acquired a reputation for increasing young men’s virility. It was popularly employed in love potions and adolescent boys rubbed an ointment on their cheeks to speed up the growth of facial hair. It is associated with sexual appeal and has been used by males to increase their virility. Southernwood was put under mattresses in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome to rouse lust in their occupants. Its common nickname, Lad’s Love, refers to the habit of including a spray of the plant in country bouquets presented by lovers to their lasses in order to seduce them. It was used in medieval times.

It’s a wonderful scent herb, with an interesting texture in the garden (even if it doesn’t have the sexual powers once attributed to it). A photo (taken by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky) from my Columbus garden:

Finally, love lies bleeding. From the Wikipedia entry:

Amaranthus caudatus is a species of annual flowering plant. It goes by common names such as love-lies-bleeding, love-lies-a’bleeding, pendant amaranth, tassel flower, velvet flower, foxtail amaranth, and quelite.

The amaranths supply seeds that can be ground into a flour and also dyes.

In a photo:

A decidedly phallic plant.

2 Responses to “More plants of love”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    On Facebook, Aric Olnes reminds us not to forget the forget-me-not. As in my sexy Sundance story Vergissmeinnicht.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    And on Facebook, Robert Cumming, writing from Sweden, notes:

    Sedum telephium is a late summer classic in Sweden, and here it’s called kärleksört (love herb) [Wikipedia page here]. Mind you today is the official midsummer eve so any 7 species picked and subsequently slept on will give you a prophetic dream of your future partner.

    The Wikipedia page tells us that in English the plant has the common names Orpine, Livelong, Frog’s-stomach, Harping Johnny, Life-everlasting, Live-forever, Midsummer-men, Orphan John, and Witch’s Moneybags. Swedish is more romantic.

    (This species is one of a number sold under the genus name Sedum that have been reassigned by botanists to the genus Hylotelephium. The plant’s scientific name connects it to Telephus, a son of Heracles/Hercules; Wikipedia page here. The Greek combining form hylo- means ‘wood; matter, substance’.)

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