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MEANINGS & LEGENDS OF FLOWERS (B)
Babysbreath button Baby's Breath
Gypsophila paniculata
Family:Caryophyllaceae
Common Names: ~Gypsophila~ ~Gyp~ ~Baby's Breath~ ~Happy Festival'~ ~

Originated in the Mediterranean and eastern Europe, Baby's Breath is named for its small, scented blossoms. Gypsophila paniculata, means ~love chalk,~ referring to its preference for chalky soil.

Baby's Breath is used as a filler in bouquets and flower arrangements. It dries well. Hang upside down for a few days.
All parts are poisionous when dried.



bay  button Bay
Laurus nobilis
Family: Lauraceae
Common Names: ~Bay Laurel~ ~Bay Tree~ ~Roman Laurel~ ~Sweet Bay

Bay leaves come from the evergreen Laurel tree. The leaves are waxy and oval-shaped. The flowers are greenish yellow in color and grow in small umbrels. The tree is pyramid shaped. It's scienticfic name ~Laurus~ means ~praise~ and ~nobilis~ means ~famous or notable.~

In ancient Greece it was a symbol of glory and poets, heroes, were crowned with laurel wreaths and crowns were worn as medals. A poet laureate is an accomplished poet, and the term ~Poet Laureate~ came about because of this custom. Winning athletes and leaders were crowned with bay. In Rome, generals celebrating victory wore the costume of Jupiter including the laurel on their heads. News of battle victories were sent wrapped in laurel leaves.

The Roman poet, Ovid, retold the story of the Greek nymph, Daphne, who was transformed into a laurel tree by her father, Peneus, so that she could avoid the amorous pursuit of the god, Apollo. Thereafter, Apollo wore a wreath of laurel to show his love for Daphne and extended protection to anyone bearing bay, the symbol of his beloved. Bay being hung over the door of the sick to protect them, which in turn led to the garlanding of newly qualified doctors with bay as a symbol of protection and success known as bacca laureus ~laurel berry~ which gave the term baccalaureate, a University degree.

Bay has many magical properties. Prophets used to hold laurel boughs when foretelling the future. It was believed to ward off lightening and evil magic, to protect emperors and warriors, and to destroy harmful bacteria. The Roman emperor Tiberius always wore a laurel wreath during electrical storms. It has been associated with immortality, physical and moral cleansing. The Greeks believed it protected them against spirits. Roman merchants used a laurel branch to bless their goods.

It also has narcotic properties. Bay was eaten by the Pythian priestess before taking her seat in the sacred shrine at the Oracle of Delphi. She would be asked a question and her utterances would be reduced to verse and edited by the prophets.

Bay leaves are placed beneath the pillow to induce prophetic dreams. It is a protection and purification herb and is worn as an amulet to ward off negativity and evil. If a bay tree is planted near the home it will protect its inhabitants against sickness. To ensure that a love will stay, the couple should break off a twig from the tree, then break this in two, each keeping a half. Wishes are written on bay leaves which are then burned to make them come true.

The leaves can be picked all year round and are now used mainly in the kitchen. It is the only one of its genus used in cooking. In the language of flowers, the laurel stands for glory. Powers: Healing, Protection, Psychic Powers, Purification, and Strength
*See Laurel


balloonflower button Balloon Flower
Platycodon grandiflorus mariessii
Family: Campanulaceae
Common Names: ~Jie Geng~ ~Chinese Bellflower~

Japanese call it the ~Turkish balloon flowers,~ not because they come from Turkey, but because the flowers look like the dwelling place of the Turks. The petals curve out as if in defense, the flower is thought of as a young lady that cannot be offended.

Balloon Flower is used in traditional chinese medicine and is also used as an expectorant. The roots of this plant are edible and used in Korean cuisine.

Balloon flower stands for unchanging love, honesty and obedience


basil1.jpg button Basil
Ocimum Basilicum
Family: Lamiacea
Common Names: ~Our Herb~ ~Witches Herb~ ~St. Josephwort~ ~Sweet Basil~ ~Common Basil~ ~Garden Basil~ Chinese Name: ~ Luole~
Sanskrit name: ~Tulsi~ ~Arjaka~ in ancient Sanskrit


Basil was known as the herb of kings in ancient times. Its name is derived from the Greek word ~basileus~ meaning ~king.~
Basil is a tasty herb, originally from India. It is sacred to the Hindu God Vishnu, since it is supposed to be his wife Lakshmi in disguise. It is regarded as a protective plant and as a benificent spirit. A basil leaf on the body of a dead Hindu was his assurance of reaching Paradise.

To the ancient Greeks, it symbolized hate and misfortune. Alexander the Great sent it back to Greece not long before his death, and because of this and the riots that broke out after his death, the Greeks associated basil with hate and misfortune and it was known as a devil's plant.

According to folklore, there was a woman who gave birth to a tiny and thin boy. She prayed God to make him healthy. God answered her prayer and when the boy grew up he fell in love with a girl, his mother didn't approve of. The girl asked the boy to kill his mother so that they could get married. The boy killed his mother, took her heart in his hand and went to meet his future wife. On his way he dropped his mother's heart and it was then he realized that he had made a mistake. But it was too late because God changed him into a dwarf elder at the edge of the road and his mother into a flower called Sweet Basil, used by the priests to bless the young just married couples.

The story of Isabella, has been told by Boccaccio, Keats, and Hunt, in tale, poem and picture. She was a maid of Messina who, left to her own resources by her brothers found solace in the company of Lorenzo, the manager of their enterprises. The brothers wishing to avoid a scandal, finally killed Lorenzo. They told their sister that Lorenzo had been sent on a long journey, but when months passed, she asked when he would return. Her brothers did not give her an appropriate answer and knowing that something was wrong Isabella cried and called on her lover to return.

Lorenzo's ghost appeared in her sleep and told her where she could find his body and disappeared. Frightened she awoke and fled to the scene of the tragedy, where she found Lorenzo. She was scared to move the corpse to holy ground so with a knife she removed the head, and put it in a great pot, folded in linen cloth, and covered it with earth. She then planted some basil of Salerno and guarded the plant that sprung from her lover's flesh. Tended with love and care, the plant grew strong and filled the room with sweetness. Her home-staying and the pallor of weeping led the brothers to wonder, and, thinking to cure her of a mental malady, they took away the plant. She cried unceasingly for its return, but her brothers spilt the pot to see if she had hidden anything beneath its root. They found the mouldering head which, by its fair and curling hair, they recognized as Lorenzo's. Realizing that the murder had been discovered, they buried it and fled to Naples. Isabella died broken hearted, lamenting her pot of basil.

In the West Indies, basil is soaked in water and scattered around shops to attract buyers and good luck. An old belief said that basil attracted scorpions. Many people were convinced that basil bred foul creatures or other noxious animals.

The Greeks and Romans believed that you had to curse and yell while you were planting basil seeds, to get a good crop. Even today, there is a French idiom for raving, ~semer le basilic~ meaning ~sowing the basil.~ The Greeks also associated basil with poverty, and in paintings poverty was depicted as a old woman in rags with a pot of basil beside her.

In Italy, it stood for love and was called ~Kiss me, Nicholas~ while in Greece it meant hate. A sprig given to a man meant ~Be wary, someone is plotting against you.~ According to Jewish lore, sprigs of basil held in the hand gave strength when fasting. It was planted on graves in ancient Persia and Malaysia, and Egyptian women scattered the flowers over the resting places of the dead. In Spain, a pot of basil on the windowsill indicated a house of ill repute. A smaller species of basil, bush basil, was used in Italy as a love token and in Crete represented ~love washed with tears~ a concept best illustrated by the story of Isabella and the Pot of Basil.

Basil is said to have the powers for Exorcism, Flying, Love, Protection, and Wealth.
The scent of fresh basil is known to cause sympathy between two people. It is added to love incenses and sachets, and the fresh basil leaves are rubbed against the skin as a kind of natural love perfume. Basil brings wealth to those who carry it in their pockets. It is used to attract customers to a place of business by placing some in the cash register or on the doors. To insure that your mate remains true, sprinkle basil powder over his or her heart while they are asleep, and fidelity will bless your relationship. Basil given as a gift brings good luck to a new home.


In Ayurvedic medicine, basil is known as ~Tulsi~ and the juice is widely used. In India, basil is the most sacred plant, next to the lotus. It is a popular culinary herb. Haitian merchants often sprinkle their stores with a composition made of this fragrant herb soaked in water to get rid of bad luck and attract buyers.


button Beans
Phaseolus vulgaris L.
Family: Leguminaceae
Common Names: ~Green Bean~ ~Kidney Bean~ ~Navy Bean~ ~Pinto Bean~ ~Snap Bean~ ~String Bean~ ~Wax Bean~

Scattering bean flowers is thought to placate demons in many countries particularly in the Far East, it is associated with death and the spirits of the dead. If one bean in a row should come up white instead of green, an English tradition associates this occurrence with death.

Broad beans were thought to possess the soul of the dead, and when in flower it was believed that accidents were more likely to happen. The bean would grow upside-down during a leap year. The shape of the bean was associated with death and ghosts. Scattering some around the outside of the house would stave of such attentions for 12 months.

Broad beans have also been associated with forecasting the future. An European belief was that three beans should be prepared in different ways to produce an outcome and then hidden on Midsummer Eve for the enquirer to find. The untouched bean indicated wealth, the half-peeled bean indicated a comfortable life, whilst the third fully peeled bean indicated poverty. The future was revealed by which bean was found first.

Phaseolus vulgaris ~Kidney bean~ is indigenous to the Americas, being unknown to the rest of the world before Columbus. These beans were used as trade goods by Native American tribes from Canada to South America, with each tribe having its own names and folklore for the beans.

On 3 days of the year, the Roman head of the household went through a ritual ceremony of spitting beans out of his mouth to rid his home of evil spirits. This custom carried over to the Middle Ages, where spitting a mouthful of beans in a witch's face was considered to negate her powers. Beans were thought to be a potent deterrent against evil. The

There is a legend concerning the philosopher/mathematician Pythagoras and a bean field. He believed that some souls, when leaving their bodies, became beans, so he refused to eat them. When there were enemies pursuing him, believing that he was a magician who needed to be put to death, he ran until he came to a bean field. Since he thought that the vines had souls hanging upon them which he did not want to trample, he instead stood still and allowed himself to be killed.

Since 200 BC, tofu ~bean curd~ has been cooked into a soup to treat colds.



beragomont.gif button Bergamot
Monarda spp.
Family: Rustaceae
Common Names: ~Oswego~ ~Oswego Tea~ ~Bee Balm~ ~Red Bee Balm~ ~Beebalm~ ~Scarlet Bee Balm~ ~American Bee Balm~ ~Monarda~ ~Monarda Didyma~ ~Scarlet Monarda~ ~Gold Melissa~ ~Indian Nettle~ ~Red Bergamot~

Native to North America, its named after the 16th century Spanish physician, Nicholas Monardez, who first discovered it in 1569.

It was called Oswego (or Otsego) tea by early American settlers because of its use by the Oswego Indians. It was grown by the Shakers in the late 1700s in their settlement near Oswego. The Shakers were among America's great herbalists; they valued bergamot not only for tea and culinary uses, but for its medicinal virtues.The Native Americans passed their knowledge of the plant to the colonists, and John Bartram of Philadelphia, sent seeds to England in the mid-1700s.

Bergamot or bee balm is a part of American history; it is a source of tea which was a popular substitute for the imported variety amongst the mid-Atlantic patriots in the wake of the Boston Tea Party.

The entire plant has a strong fragrance similar to citrus. The scent is suitable for use in potpourris and other scented mixtures. Bergamot flowers are edible and can be used in salads. The leaves can be used to flavor apple jelly, fruit cups, and salads. The blossoms provide the flavoring for the famous Earl Grey tea.


betony button Betony
Stachys betonica (BENTH.), Betonica officinalis (LINN.)
Family N.O. Labiatae
Common Names: ~Purple Betony~ ~Wood Betony~ ~Texas Betony~ ~Lamb's Ears~ ~Hedge Nettle~ ~Woundwort~ ~Lousewort~ ~Bishop's Wort~

Betony is the original herb of magic discovered by Chiron the Centaur. Named after Beronice, a woman healed by Christ, it was believed to cure all ills, of the body and soul. It was also a powerful protection against witchcraft and sorcery. Betony was used in amulets, planted in churchyards and sown around houses.

The common name was first ~Vettonica,~ from the Vettones (people of Spain). The name of the genus, Stachys, is a Greek word, signifying ~a spike,~ from the mode of flowering.

It is a woodland plant found throughout England and was held in high repute not only in the Middle Ages, but also by the Greeks. An old Italian proverb, ~Sell your coat and buy Betony,~ and ~He has as many virtues as Betony,~ a saying of the Spaniards, show that great value was placed on its remedial properties. Antonius Musa, chief physician to the Emperor Augustus, wrote a long treatise, showing that betony was a cure for fortyseven diseases.

There were many superstitions about this plant. According to one, was that serpents would fight and kill each other if placed within a ring composed of it; and others declared that even wild beasts recognized its efficacy and used it if wounded, and that stags, if wounded with a dart, would search out Betony, and eating it, be cured.

During the Middle Ages betony was grown in monastery gardens and was believed to ward off a host of evils, including mad dogs. It is used in magic for purification of body and soul before rituals, love, when making love advances or when trying to mend lovers' quarrels, ill health, ill fortune. It is also used to combat drunkenness. The Druids used it for magical purposes as they believed that it had the power to expel evil spirits, nightmares, and despair. It was burned at Midsummer Solstice for purification and protection. Sprinkle near all doors and windows to form a protective barrier. If troubled by nightmares, fill a small cloth pillow and place it under your regular pillow.


Strelitzia button Bird-Of-Paradise
Strelitzia reginae
Family: Strelitziaceae
Common Names:~Crane's Bill~ ~Crane's Flower~

Strelitzia is named after actual birds-of-paradise, which are the most beautiful birds in the world, with brightly coloured plumage and fanlike tails. However, some believe that it was named after England's Queen Charlotte, who was born Charlotte Mecklenber-Strelitz.

This exotic flower is native to the Cape of Good Hope region of South Africa.



blackberry button Blackberry
Rubus fruticosus
Family: Rosaceae
Common Names: ~Bramble~ ~Bumble-Kite~ ~Bramble-Kite~ ~Bly~ ~Brameberry~ ~Scaldhead~ ~Brambleberry~ BrambleAllegheny Blackberry~ ~ Brameberry~ Brummel~ ~Common Blackberry~ ~European Blackberry~ ~Scaldhead~ ~Rubus fruticosus~ ~Cloudberry~ ~Dewberry~ ~Goutberry~ ~High Blackberry~ ~Piao~ ~Thimbleberry~ ~Wild Western Thimbleberries~

Blackberries originated from Europe. They are a noxious weed throughout NSW. The name is derived from ~brambel~ or ~brymbyl,~ signifying ~prickly.~

Far back during the days of Jonathan, he upbraided the men of Shechem for their ingratitude to his father's house, relating to them the parable of the trees choosing a king, the bramble being finally elected, after the olive, fig-tree and vine had refused the dignity.

Blackberry was considered to be a holy plant as well as one of the earliest foods known to man. In the Highlands it was called it the ~Blessed Bramble.~ Evil spirits could be kept off by a wreath of bramble, rowan and ivy.

Blackberry is a symbol of remorse and is associated with alleviating several illnesses. The ancient Greeks used them as a remedy for gout and in England the leaves are used in as a remedy for burns and scalds.

It is also associated with the Devil in France and England. In France it was thought that the colour of the fruit resulted from when the Devil spat on it, whilst in England it was thought that picking fruit after 11th October ~Olde Michaelmas Day~ would bring bad luck as the Devil was believed to have fallen into a thicket and had left a curse on the thorns which had hurt him.

Blackberry is also known as ~Scaldhead~ either from producing the eruption known as scaldhead in children who eat the fruit to excess or from the curative effects of the leaves and berries in this malady of the scalp, or from the remedial effects of the leaves, when applied externally to scalds.

Creeping under a Bramble-bush was a charm against rheumatism, boils, blackheads, etc. Blackberries were supposed to give protection against all ~evil runes,~ if gathered at the right time of the moon. The whole plant was used as a medicine. Brambles of blackberry were planted around graves to prevent the dead from rising as ghosts. Legend has it that Christ used bramble to drive the moneychangers from the temple. Children were at one time passed through a blackberry arch as a cure for rickets. The flowers and fruit were used to remedy venomous bites. The young shoots, eaten as a salad.


bloodflower button Blood Flower
Asclepias curassavica
Family: Asclepiadaceae
Has clusters of ten or so orange-red flowers. The genus name is derived from the Greek god of medicine, ~Asklepios.~ This plant can be used to induce vomiting and to expel worms.

bldroot1button Blood Root
Sanguinaria Candensis
Family: Papaveraceae
Common Names: ~Indian Paint~ ~Tetterwort~ ~Red Pucoon~ ~Red Root~ ~Paucon~ ~Coon Root~ ~Snakebite~ ~Sweet Slumber~ ~Indian Plant~ ~Indian Red Paint~ ~Pauson~ ~Red Paint Root~ ~Sanguinaria~

The first blossoms arise from the dead leaves and brown brush. The petals of are pure white in color. The juice of the bloodroot - an orange-red - never stains the blossoms but is a potent dye that it will stain anything else that it touches. The Indians used the juice mixed with animal fat to paint their faces. It was also used to dye baskets, decorate weapons and implements, and color clothing. Colonists used the plant to dye cloth. It was widely used among the Algonkian nations as a blood purifier. Calling the plant ~Puccoon~ or ~Paucon,~ a name that refers to the red juice, some tribes used it to treat cramps, stop vomiting, induce abortions, and even as an insect repellent.

A bachelor of the Ponca tribe would rub a piece of the root as a love charm on the palm of his hand, then scheme to shake hands with the woman he desired to marry. After shaking hands, the girl would be found willing to marry him in 5-6 days. Indians and later white men used it to relieve coughs and sore throats. The juice on the skin may cause an allergic reaction similar to that of poison ivy. Modern herbals warn that the plant is so strong that it should not be used without medical supervision. An overdose can kill a man.

bonnet.gif buttonBluebonnet
Lupinus texensis
Family: Fabaceae
Common Names: ~Buffalo Clover~ ~Wolf flower~

The Texas State Flower is the Bluebonnet. Named for its color and resemblance to a woman's sunbonnet, the bluebonnet became the official state flower of Texas on March 7, 1901. It can be found in fields and along the roadsides throughout central and south Texas.

The Mexicans refer to it as ~el conejo,~ the Spanish word for it is ~Jackrabbit.~
There is a tale from the Comanche Nation that explains how this beautiful flower was gifted to the Comanche, yet it is also a fine tribute to a people who knew the meaning of self-sacrifice and survival. There was a little girl, She-Who-Is-Alone, whose heart is as big as Texas and whose spirit is as beautiful as the bluebonnet.


She-Who-Is-Alone lived with the Comanche. Their land was suffering from a drought an no matter what the dancers did, there were still no rains. The shaman told the people that the Great Spirits believed that the people had become too selfish and for the rains to return, the Comanche had to offer a burnt sacrifice to the Great Spirits, of their most valued possession. The people wanted to give the offering but each one was sure that his bow or her blanket was not what the Great Spirits wanted. She-Who-Is-Alone knew exactly that the Great Spirits expected the doll she loved so dearly. That night after everyone went to sleep, she went to the fire and offered her doll as a sacrifice. When the ashes cooled, she scattered them to the four corners of the earth. When the tribe arose the next morning, the hillside was covered with blue flowers, a sign of forgiveness from the Great Spirits. As they offered their thanks, the rains came and healed the earth.

Indians wove fascinating folk tales around them. The early-day Spanish priests gathered the seeds and grew them around their missions. This practice gave rise to the myth that the padres had brought the plant from Spain, but this is not true since the two predominant species of bluebonnets are found growing naturally only in Texas and at no other location in the world. Historian Jack Maguire wrote, that "The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England and the tulip to Holland."

The Texas Legislature adopted several resolutions relating to bluebonnets. ~Bluebonnets,~ written by Julia D. Booth and Lora C. Crockett, became the State Flower Song on March 21, 1933. The Chappell Hill Bluebonnet Festival was named the official bluebonnet festival in Texas on May 7, 1997. That same day, the Legislature declared Ennis as the official Bluebonnet Trail of Texas and named it the Bluebonnet City of Texas.
A pink bluebonnet, is a symbol for the struggle to survive and a memory of those who died so that Texas could be free.



borage.gif button Borage
Borago officinalis
Family: Boraginaceae

Borage originated in the Middle East and was associated with bravery. The ancient Celtic warriors drank borage-flavored wine for courage. The people believed that borage imparted a sense of well-being, and the Roman scholar Pliny considered it to be an antidepressant. The five-pointed brilliant blue flowers were once favorite subjects in needlework. Cucumber flavored leaves are used to flavor cool drinks, salads, and soups. Both leaves and flowers can be used fresh and dried for eating. Can also be added to drinks such as Pimms or Gin & Tonic.

bovardia button Bouvardia
Bovar'dia longgiflora
Family : Rubiaceae

Named after Charles Bouvard, Bouvardia is native to Mexico, Central and South America. Small, fragrant, tubular florets with four or eight spreading petals form a cluster a top a single stem. The green alternately arranged foliage is fuzzy to the touch.
The vase life is 14 - 20 days.




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Copyright Pinkie D'Cruz 1998
Friday, January 16, 1998




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