They inspire artists and poets alike, and they're used to symbolize love and death, making them popular at both weddings and funerals. They're flowers, and with their many colors, shapes and smells, a bouquet can bring a smile to even the hardest of hearts. Given their complex nature, it's little wonder that many interesting facts exist in the world of the flower.
Flowers in History
Ancient tombs in Egypt depict flowers being carried by soldiers as far back as 3,500 years ago. The War of the Roses fought during the 1400s between the English houses of York and Lancaster took its name from the white and red roses used as the symbols of those families. In the 1630s, during the height of tulip mania in Europe, tulip bulbs were more valuable than gold. The first plant to flower in space did so in 1982 aboard the Salyut 7, a Soviet-era space station.
Flowers as Food
Tulips are a close relative of onions, and can be substituted for them in recipes. Roses are actually relatives of many types of fruit, including apples, cherries, peaches and pears. In fact, rose petals are edible. Broccoli is a vegetable that also qualifies as a flower. In the United Kingdom, rosebay willow roots are ground to make sweet flour for baking.
Flowers as Symbols
Legend says pink carnations grew from the tears Mary shed at Jesus' crucifixion, thus associating those flowers with motherly love. Like tulips, hyacinths were symbols of wealth in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. The peony is a traditional symbol of China, while the chrysanthemum is a popular symbol of Japan. Both roses and tulips are recognized as symbols of love, making them popular for bouquets.
Sunflowers remain one of the largest and fastest growing flowering annuals, reaching heights of up to 12 feet in just a matter of months. The tallest sunflower on record reached nearly 25 feet, 6 inches in a Netherlands garden. Another large flowering plant, the titan arum can clock in at 10 feet. But gardeners may wish to avoid this odd plant, as its flowers give off a scent reminiscent of rotting flesh, earning it the nickname corpse flower.
Oddities from the World of Flowers
The Shasta daisy isn't even a daisy at all, rather, it's a member of the chrysanthemum family. The flowers of the cocoa tree smell like mold and mushrooms to attract midge flies for pollination. The puya raimondii, a flowering bromeliad native to the mountains of Bolivia and Peru, can live for decades before blooming. There are over 25,000 varieties of the orchid, making it the largest flowering family in the plant kingdom.