wallflower

In my set of Art of Instruction cards, recently, one for la giroflée, the wallflower. An assortment of wallflowers:

From Wikipedia:

Erysimum (wallflower) is a genus of flowering plants in the botanical family Brassicaceae [formerly Cruciferae, for the four petaled flowers], that includes about 180 species, both popular garden plants and many wild forms. The genus Cheiranthus is sometimes included here in whole or in part.

… Most wallflower garden cultivars (e.g. Erysimum ‘Chelsea Jacket’) are derived from E. cheiri (often placed in Cheiranthus), from southern Europe. … Growth is best in dry soils with very good drainage, and they are often grown successfully in loose wall mortar, hence the vernacular name. There is a wide range of flower colour in the warm spectrum, including white, yellow, orange, red, pink, maroon, purple and brown. The flowers, appearing in spring, usually have a strong fragrance.

A strong fragrance reminiscent of cloves, hence the French name, from (clou de) girofle ‘clove’ (Latin carophyllon, with an earlier Greek source).

Then there’s the English compound wallflower, originally referring to a flower that characteristically grows in chinks in walls, but then extended figuratively to people. From Wikipedia:

In social situations, a wallflower is a shy or unpopular individual who doesn’t socialize or participate in activities at social events. He or she may have other talents but usually does not express them in the presence of other individuals. The term comes from the image of a person isolating themselves from areas of social activities at ballroom dances and parties, where the people who did not wish to dance (or had no partner) remained close to the walls of the dance hall.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed), the first known usage of the term in this sense was in an 1820 poem entitled County Ball by Winthrop Mackworth Praed. It was originally used to refer to women, and only in the context of dances; more recently the term has been expanded to include men and other social gatherings.

And in print:

Nora Ephron‘s wonderful collection of essays, Wallflower at the Orgy (1970);

Stephen Chbosky’s novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower [1999], about the coming of age of a boy named Charlie

 

 

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