Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Flower of the Month For July...The Larkspur

"...The larkspur listens,'I hear, I hear;' ... ~Tennyson

July's flower, the Larkspur, is a genus of ranunculaceous plants and has often shared its identity with the Delphinium. The original Latin name for the flower was Delphinium Consolida. Later, botanists divided them into to separate groups and the Larkspur became Consolida ambigua. The name "Larkspur" is derived from the spur of the flower and reminded some people of parts of the lark, hence "Larkspur".

Characteristics of the Larkspur are showy flowers, a spurred calyx, and tall stems with many branches. The European form of larkspur supposedly had medicinal properties that made it useful in healing poisonous stings, and it was also dried and used in a powdered form as an insecticide. The American larkspur. the nuttalianum, was known to West Coast tribes who used it to make a blue dye; and the settlers used it to make ink.

The Larkspur was a favorite flower during the Victorian Era, and the message it conveyed varied according to color:

Pink symbolized fickleness

White was a symbol of joy and happiness, levity, lightness, laughter, and purity of heart

Purple/Blue was associated with a sweet disposition, first love, ardent attachment

Some history and folklore associated with the Larkspur:

**Delphium ajacis owes its name to the Greek hero Ajax. When Achilles was killed, his armor was supposed to be given to the most heroic of the Greeks who remained alive. The two candidates for this reward were Odysseus and Ajax. Minerva swung the vote to Odysseus since she felt heroes should mix intelligence with bravery and Ajax was not very sharp. The dishonor drove Ajax mad and he began killing a herd of sheep believing them to be his rivals. When he realized with he had done, Ajax felt the honorable thing to do was to kill himself and so he impaled himself on his sword. Where his blood fell, larkspurs grew. On their petals, one can find the Greek letters AI, which is the Greek cry of mourning.

**In Germany young men and women stared at the Midsummer fire through a bunch of Larkspur. It was believed this would preserve their eyes for another year.

**An old Italian myth tells of three brave warriors who slew a dangerous dragon. Once the beast was conquered, they wiped their swords on the grass to clean off the blue blood which made the blue flowers of Larkspur, and the venom in the dragon's blood made the plant poisonous.

**A Pawnee legend tells of Dream Woman who was rather nosy and was very curious about the goings on in the world of humans. To satisfy her curiosity she cut a hole in the sky and took some of the green material which is the inside color of the sky and made it into a stalk. But, some blue flecks of the outside of the sky got mixed in. When she lowered her stalk toward the Earth and began to climb down it, the stalk dried in the sunlight, became brittle, and broke into millions of little pieces which became our Larkspur.

**Some Native American tribes called this plant sleep-root, and gave it to whomever they were sitting around with for a night of gambling. It dulled the senses of the person on the other side of the dice.

**Because it is poisonous, Larkspur was a favored herb of English witches. And, in France it was used to keep away ghosts.