Ranunculus to You: Vine to Xeranthemum

VINE   “Intoxication”*

            The floriographers are obviously thinking of grape vines, and, hence, wine.  They could have thought of grape jelly, but for some reason, did not think of thinking of it.

*VINE, WILD   “Poetry and Imagination”

VIOLET   “Modesty”*

            The violet is considered a hidden, humble flower.  It was also the symbol of Napoleon.  If you see the connection, let me know.

            One book which attests to this meaning is by the least likely floriographers I ran into.  In the 1840s and 1850s, Jane Webb Loudon brought out a five volume set of beautiful (and now ferociously expensive) books, The Ladies’ Flower Garden of Ornamental Flowers, followed by a similar volume called British Wild Flowers.  These are largely horticultural, but she did manage to wedge in a modest amount of flower language.

            But, see, Jane Webb came into the appropriately feminine world of gardening and flowers by way of science fiction.  In her teens, she wrote The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century.  The social theories she expounded in and among the sensations made a fan of John Loudon, a crusading horticulturist leading England away from the wildly picturesque gardens which had been in fashion toward a more orderly (and less expensive) style of garden.  He sought an introduction to the author of The Mummy, and they hit it off, though when they were married, he was nearly double her age.  Jane turned to nature writing and, as far as is known, never strayed into science fiction again.

VIOLET, AFRICAN   “Such Worth is Rare”

            And so was the African Violet, so far as floriographers were concerned.  The rarity of African violets in flower language books results, I am told, from the fact that the African violet was very difficult to grow at home until the advent of the electric light, by which time flower language was on the wane.  The multitude of African Violets we see today results from an African Violet craze in the 1920s.

VIOLET, BLUE   “Faithfulness”

Violet, Dame’s:   see QUEEN’S ROCKET

VIOLET, PARMA   “Let Me Love You”

VIOLET, PURPLE   “You Occupy My Thoughts”

            A close relative of the Pansy, which explains the meaning.

VIOLET, SWEET   “Modesty”

            But Geoffrey Grigson says this was one of the chief plants of Priapus, because the scent reminded people of sex.  For further details, see (and hear) any of the under-the-counter recordings of the song “Sweet Violets”.  Even the Dinah Shore version will give you some hints.

VIOLET, WHITE   “Candor”*

            Because, they tell me, candor comes before innocence, as white violets came before blue ones.  Sometimes I think this makes sense, and sometimes I just sit and wonder.

VIOLET, WILD   “Love In Idleness”

            This is another Pansy relative.

VIOLET, YELLOW   “Rural Happiness”

VIRGIN’S BOWER   “Filial Love”

            See also TRAVELER’S JOY

VISCARIA OCULATA   “Will You Dance With Me?”

            This is a kind of Catchfly, which may have a lot to do with the meaning.


            This is also spelled Volkamenia japonica in the books.  And Volkamenica japonica.  And just about anything else which seems halfway reasonable.


*WALKING-LEAF   “How Came You Here?”

            I walked, apparently.

WALLFLOWER   “Fidelity in Adversity”*

            Yes, there actually is a plant called the Wallflower, so named because it clings to walls.  It is especially found growing on the walls of broken-down houses, and is thus a symbol of sticking with something even at the depths of bad luck.  The fact is that if someone WERE still living within the walls, they’d probably pull the wallflowers down.

            Sheila Pickles has a story about specific walls belonging to a castle with a tower from which a maiden cast herself to her death.  There are other romantic stories like this, if you care to look.

            Some floriographers refer to this plant as Bloody Warrior, because they see these red flowers as defenders of the walls, and thus make the meaning “Defense”.

WALNUT   “Intellect”

            The nut happens to look like a brain, that’s all.  Some floriographers use the meaning “Stratagem” for much the same reason (Strategy comes from the brain, y’see.)  George O’Neill, always on hand to straighten things out, said the American Walnut would mean “Stratagem” and the English Walnut “Intellect”, but the rest of the floriographers failed to pick up on this suggestion.

WALNUT LEAF   “Unburden Me”

*WALNUT TREE   “Persecuted Innocence”


*WATER-CALTROP   “Hidden treason”

*WATER-CALTROP FRUIT   “Danger of Costing You Anything”

            This is also known as the Water Chestnut. Which is not to be confused with the plant known as Chinese Water Chestnut.  HOWEVER, I am further informed, neither of these is even related to the Water Chestnut you get at your local Asian restaurant.  I coulda been a full-time dog walker, y’know.  I don’t HAVE to do this.

Water Lily:   see LILY, WATER

WATERMELON   “Bulkiness”

            Whatever else COULD it mean?

WATER STAR   “Beauty Combined With Piety”

            Frances S. Osgood includes this in both of her books, but no other floriographer does.

*WAX BERRY   “Confiding Trust”

WAX PLANT   “Susceptibility”

            This is a type of Hoya, probably as susceptible as the rest of the family to being woven into shapes.

*WEED   “I Would Bloom If I Could”

            The reason only one floriographer bothered with this is that, frankly, half the plants in this book have been considered weeds at some point or another.  And, anyhow, weeds do SO bloom.

WEIGELA   “Accept a faithful Heart”

WHEAT   “Riches”*

            Even Morato’s book agrees with this, and adds that the implication is that these are riches honestly obtained.

Whin:   see GORSE

Whortleberry:   see BILBERRY

*WILDFLOWER   “Fidelity in Misfortune”

            This MUST have been a misprint or misreading of WALLFLOWER.

WILLOW   “Forsaken”

Folkard says the Willow has been a symbol of grief since Psalm 137 was written.  There was also a saying that someone was “wearing the willow” for someone else.  This meant there had been a break-up but the person was still in love, and grieving at being forsaken.

*WILLOW, BRANCH   “I Want Nothing Of You At All”

            We would say “I want nothing FROM you”.

WILLOW, CREEPING   “Love Forsaken”

            Is this a typo for Weeping Willow, or a reference to a plant known as the Creeping Primrose-Willow?

WILLOW, RENCH   “Bravery and Humility”

WILLOW HERB   “Pretension”*

            I am told that this is sometimes known as Rosebay.  There have been weeks when every plant I looked up was “also known as Rosebay”.  Spiked Willow Herb, also known as Rosebay, is also given the meaning “Pretension”.


            I just don’t want to talk about it.

Willow Herb, Spiked:   see WILLOW HERB

Willow, Pussy: see PUSSYWILLOW

WILLOW, WATER   “Freedom”

WILLOW, WEEPING   “Mourning”

*WILLOW, WHITE   “False love”

WISTERIA   “I Cling to Thee”


            Some people say the way this plant bloomed in cold weather was spooky, supernatural.  Others tell me the name comes from Wych Hazel, which simply means Bendable Hazel.  You can see which witch the floriographers favored.

Wolfsbane:   see ACONITE

WOODBINE   “Fraternal Love”

*WOODPECKER’S TONGUE   “You Shall Have What You Desire”

            I was worried about this for a long time, but I’ve decided to let it pass.

WORMWOOD   “Absence”*

            Is this a bit of wordplay, since this is the plant that provides us with absinth?  (Indeed, it is sometimes called Absinth.)  Or is it simply a matter of the plant being so bitter it is a handy reference for the bitterness of a lover’s absence?

WOODRUFF   “Modest Worth”

            Joseph E. Meyer calls this “Sweet Woodruff…a favorite little plant…with a pleasant smell, which, like the good deeds of the worthiest persons, delights by its fragrance most after it has been dried.”  I would not add one word to that.


Xanthium:   see CLOTBUR

XERANTHEMUM   “Cheerful Under Adversity”

            No, as a matter of fact, this is not at all related to the Chrysanthemum, but thanks for asking.  It’s more closely related to Everlasting, but that just doesn’t feel right, somehow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: