Green flowers

It starts with this design by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on her Instagram account on the 8th, with her comment “Not sure why I keep making flowers green”:


And then it leads all sorts of surprising places, botanical, cultural, and linguistic.

The flower arrangers. On the site Pollen Nation by, “15 Green Flowers you Probably Didn’t Know Existed” by “Lily Calyx” on 3/26/17:

In some parts of the world, they are … symbolic of good fortune and youth. Despite this, they’re often disregarded when choosing flowers for a beautiful bouquet, when in fact; green flowers can create an extremely stunning floral arrangement and one that is perfect for any occasion.

For this reason alone, we’ve put together a list of our top 15 favourite green flowers

About the site:

Pollen Nation is brought to you by, an independent leading award-winning online florist in the UK. Our passion for flowers has been with us since the start of our journey in 2003 and has resulted in this blog offering helpful advice and inspiration to anyone who likes all things floral.

They’re British, they suppy fresh flowers and, especially, flower arrangements to customers, and they’re not skillful writers (in particular, they hold the eccentric, but consistent, view that species is a PL noun form in English (meaning, ‘botanical kinds, types’) with SG specie).

Their list of green flowers:

green carnation, green chrysanthemum, Green Trick dianthus, bells of Ireland, green gladiolus, green zinnia, green cymbidium orchid, green daylily, green hellebore, green rose, green hydrangea, green hypericum (St. John’s Wort) berries, (green) lady’s slipper orchid, (green) spider mum, (green) cockscomb

One of these isn’t a flower, but ornamental berries — I’ll talk about them separately below, because I’m fond of (yellow-flowered) hypericums, and grew them in Columbus — but all the rest are (in ordinary language, at least) flowers, all of them naturally (not artificially) green, though many of them have that color achieved by careful selective breeding or hybridization.

The company is not offering artificially dyed flowers, not even the very popular dyed white carnations — stems clipped, left to stand in water with food coloring in it so that the stems will take up the dye and the flowers will soon be colored.

The work of breeders. But there are now carnations in a wide variety of colors, including several shades of green, that you you can buy as seeds and grow in your own garden. These green flowers were created by breeders, as were green chrysanthemums (including spider mums), green zinnias, green daisies, green daylilies, green roses, green gladioluses, and green cockscombs (Celosia cristata). From this group, the green daylily as described on the Pollen Nation site:


This specie of green flower is unique in both its colour and shape. Its distinctiveness is down to the work of professional botanists and green-fingered connoisseurs, who have created a striking green variety of Daylily, which boasts elegant petals with curled edges and rich green hues.

Two of the green flowers on the Pollen Nation list are orchids with petals that are green in nature: green cymbidium orchids and green lady’s slipper orchids (of the genus Paphiopedilum, or Venus slipper). On the latter, from the site:


Unlike the majority of orchids available today, this smaller specie boasts just two leaves, both of which branch out from the central stem. It’s these unique leaves that earned them their name, which look a little like a lady’s slipper.

This little description is singularly askew. From Wikipedia:

the genus is a member of the subfamily Cypripedioideae, commonly referred to as the “lady’s-slippers” [or “lady slippers”] or “slipper orchids” due to the unusual shape of the pouch-like labellum of the flower.

[Digression on SG specie. Another oddity of the Pollen Nation site. From NOAD:

C noun species (pl. species): 1 Biology a group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g. Homo sapiens. … 2 a kind or sort: a species of invective at once tough and suave…. ORIGIN late Middle English: from Latin, literally ‘appearance, form, beauty’ [Lat. species has pl.species]

So in English: two species, these species, many species, etc. But species sounds/looks like a PL form, which has led some speakers to back-form a non-standard SG specie: one specie, this specie.

Note that the following technical term in finance and the law is irrelevant here:

M noun specie: money in the form of coins rather than notes. PHRASES in specie 1 in coin. 2 Law in the real, precise, or actual form specified: the plaintiff could not be sure of recovering his goods in specie. ORIGIN mid 16th century: from Latin, ablative of species ‘form, kind’, in the phrase in specie ‘in the actual form’

End of digression.]

A green-flowered cymbidium in my own garden, from my 3/6/13 posting “Cymbidiums”:


Other green flowers in nature. Here the necessary background is about plant parts: sepals and the calyx. From NOAD:

noun calyx: (plural calyces or calyxes) 1 Botany the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud. [The corresponding whorl of petals is called a corolla.]

The calyx of a rose, surrounding the petals, now peeled back after the flower bud has opened:


The calyx of a tomato, originally enclosing the flower bud, then at the base of the yellow tomato flower, and now at the base of the fruit that has developed from the flower:


Like the stems and leaves of plants, calyxes are usually green, and their sepals tend to last much longer than the petals of flowers.

That brings us to perhaps the best-known green-flowered garden plant, where what we think of as petals are in fact sepals (and so are green). From Wikipedia:


Moluccella laevis (Bells-of-Ireland, Bells of Ireland, Molucca balmis, Shellflower, Shell flower) is a summer flowering annual, native to Turkey, Syria and the Caucasus. It is cultivated for its spikes of flowers. In the language of flowers, it represents luck.

The tiny white flowers are surrounded by apple green calyces which are persistent. The rounded leaves are pale green.

Fast growing, Moluccella laevis will reach 1 metre and spread to 30 centimeters with an erect, branching habit.

A member of the mint family, the blooming stems can be cut and used in fresh or dried flower arrangements. The domestic plant is self-seeding, prefers full sun and regular water and [is] unlikely to do well in hot, humid climates.

In a similar vein, the hellebores. My 9/8/14 posting “I never promised you a rose garden” has a section on hellebores (genus Helleborus), which come in white, dusky purple, and green, with these Wikipedia notes:


… The flowers have five petal-like sepals surrounding a ring of small, cup-like nectaries which are actually “petals” modified to hold nectar.

… Many species of hellebore have green or greenish-purple flowers and are of limited garden value, although Corsican hellebore (H. argutifolius), a robust plant with pale green, cup-shaped flowers and attractive leathery foliage, is widely grown. So is the ‘stinking hellebore’ or setterwort (H. foetidus), which has drooping clusters of small, pale green, bell-shaped flowers, often edged with maroon, which contrasts with its dark evergreen foliage.

The Pollen Nation text (which has species as a PL, in these species):

Nicknamed the ‘Christmas Rose’, this vibrant, fresh flower is a popular choice during the festivities, as it perfectly complements deep red Hellebores. One thing to keep in mind when handling these species of flower is that they can be poisonous – it’s therefore best to leave the arranging to your florist.

(Well, hellebores are in the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family, including many plants — buttercups among them — that are toxic if ingested. Handling them is no problem, but DO NOT EAT THE BUTTERCUPS (or the hellebores).)

On to hydrangeas. Yes, sepals again. From the Gardening Know How site, “Hydrangea With Green Flowers – Cause Of Green Hydrangea Blooms”:


While there are many varieties within the species, the large Macrophylla or mopheads are still the most popular. While their normal summer blooming color is blue, pink or white, we all notice those green hydrangea flowers at some point in the season. Why do hydrangea flowers bloom green? Is there a cause of green hydrangea blooms?
… those colorful flowers aren’t petals at all. They’re sepals, the part of the flower that protects the flower bud. Why do hydrangeas bloom green? Because that’s the natural color of the sepals.

The full story is a bit more complex. From the Wikipedia article on H. macrophylla:

(#10) Bigleaf hydrangea: ‘Let’s Dance’ Starlight cultivar

Two distinct types of flowers can be identified: central non-ornamental fertile flowers and peripheral ornamental flowers… The four sepals of decorative flowers have colors ranging from pale pink to red fuchsia purple to blue. The non-decorative flowers have five small greenish sepals and five small petals.

Finally, ‘Green Trick’ (and the similar ‘Green Ball’ cultivar) Dianthus barbatus. These are recently developed varieties said by some to have “finely dissected petals”, by others to have “non-petalled flowers”, which apparently means that they’re finely dissected sepals — developed specifically for use as cut flowers (they are long-lasting as well as ornamental):


Green berries. Green berries are, of course, everywhere. But some are big and glossy and long-lasting, so are excellent in floral arrangements. For example, the berries of Hypericum androsaemum, which come in a variety of colors and are widely used in bouquets.

On the plant, from Wikipedia:

Hypericum androsaemum, also referred to as Tutsan, Shrubby St. John’s Wort , or sweet-amber, is a flowering plant in the family Hypericaceae. It is a perennial shrub reaching up to 70 cm in height, native to open woods and hillsides in Eurasia.

Tutsan comes from the French toute-sain meaning all heal due to its medicinal uses. This berry producing shrub is common in the Mediterranean basin where it has been traditionally used as diuretic and hepatoprotective herb

… The berries turn from white/green, to red, to black.

From the Pollen Nation site (with SG specie again):

More commonly known as St. John’s Wort, this particular flower specie grows between one and three feet tall. It showcases ample-sized oval leaves, which each brandish [I’ll just flag this odd word choice] individual clusters of flowers. Hypericum berries are often used in bouquets and table arrangements prior to ripening.

Then from the Fresh Garden Roses site on the berries in floral design (text reproduced here as is):

(#12) Mixed hypericum berries

Mixed hypericum berries grow in small clusters on the ends of strong, upright stems. In recent years, berries are have taken almost center stage in floral design as textural elements in bouquets and flower arrangements. Hypericum berries, with a color for every season are no different. Wholesale Hypericum berries are extremely long lasting and versatile accents that give flower bouquets a pop of color or a feeling of season. Hypericum berries match with basically every type of flower!

I know hypericums through the ornamental species H. perforatum, which I grew in Columbus (it managed to flourish in the tough environment of the exposed west wall of the house). From Wikipedia:


Hypericum perforatum, known as perforate St John’s-wort, common Saint John’s wort and St John’s wort, is a flowering [perennial] plant in the family Hypericaceae. It is believed to be a medicinal herb with antidepressant activity, although high-quality clinical evidence for such effects is limited.

It’s also tough and cheery. And it brings us another plant family, #83:

Hypericaceae is a plant family in the order Malpighiales, comprising six to nine genera and up to 700 species, and commonly known as the St. John’s wort family. Members are found throughout the world apart from extremely cold or dry habitats. Hypericum and Triadenum occur in temperate regions but other genera are mostly tropical. (Wikipedia link)

Flower arranging. Or, once again, But Is It Art?

The Pollen Nation site is all about floristry. On the site, this Serenata arrangement:

(#14) The Rossini Bouquet, featuring green chrysanthemums

A painting or drawing of this bouquet would be Art — specfically, a still life. But is the bouquet itself Art? Could it be exhibited (unironically) in a gallery? (Almost surely not.)

On floristry, from Wikipedia (wth the crucial bit for my purposes in boldface):

(#15) Judith Blacklock’s 2012 book, with lots of hydrangeas, including green ones, on the cover

Floristry is the production, commerce and trade in flowers. It encompasses flower care and handling, floral design, or flower arranging, merchandising, and display and flower delivery. Wholesale florists sell bulk flowers and related supplies to professionals in the trade. Retail florists offer fresh flowers and related products and services to consumers.

Floral design or floral arts is the art of creating flower arrangements in vases, bowls, baskets, or other containers, or making bouquets and compositions from cut flowers, foliages, herbs, ornamental grasses, and other plant materials.

… Flowers have various different meanings in different cultures. The holidays and events for which flowers are used vary. Poppies are used to remember fallen soldiers only in Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries. People often prefer flowers that are associated with their ethnic group or country and the cultural meaning of the flower color strongly affects their choice and use. Colors convey different meanings to different groups so that, for example, various colors may be associated with luck or death or love.

The article takes art to embrace not only fine arts — art for art’s sake, according to the understanding of a (select) community devoted to its creation, appreciation, and dissemination — but also decorative and applied arts: landscape architecture, interior design, industrial design, costume design, floral design, etc. (and in the world of visual art: graphic design, illustration, cartooning, commercial art, etc.). The line between the fine arts and the decorative or useful arts is of course never sharp, often breached, constantly being contested, in flux over time, and variable from one cultural context to another. Think of ikebana in Japan vs. floral design in the U.S.

One Response to “Green flowers”

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