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July Flower Lore

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July Flower Lore

Flowers, perhaps more than any other part of the natural world, are fascinating because of the many layers of meaning people have shrouded them in throughout history.

There is a whole sub-category of etiquette surrounding which flowers are appropriate to give at what times, and to whom. The unending rules surrounding something so simple as a flower can be dizzying.

Another aspect of flower lore concerns the designated flowers for each month of the year. July’s official flower is the larkspur.

Larkspur, can refer to any one of 300 species of perennial flowering plants in the delphinium family, as well as to their close cousins in the consolida family. Its genus name, delphinium, comes from the Greek word for dolphin, because the plant was said to resemble a dolphin’s nose. Other popular names include lark’s heel, lark’s claw and knight’s spur.

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The flowers grow in groups along a single stalk, much like gladioli, and range in color from whites and yellows to deep reds, blues, and purples. Each flower has five petals and a protruding center — its “spur.”

Larkspur is poisonous if ingested, and is responsible for many cattle deaths in areas where it grows wild in pastures. It is also said to have medicinal and magical properties, and has been used to cure eye diseases, asthma, dropsy, and head lice. It was also believed to provide protection against lightning, and, in Transylvania, it was planted around stables, allegedly to to keep witches away.

Numerous origin stories about larkspur exist. The ancient Romans, borrowing the dolphin terminology from the Greeks, believed that the god Neptune transformed an endangered dolphin into the flower for protection.

The Pawnee tribe of North America believed that the mythological figure Dream Woman cut a hole in the sky to look down on Earth beings, and crumbs from the blue sky fell to the ground, becoming larkspur.

In medieval Italy, it was said that larkspur came about when three warriors slew a fierce dragon and wiped their swords in the grass. The dragon’s blue blood and venom mingled to create a beautiful, poisonous blue flower.

Like lily of the valley, the flower of May, larkspur is also associated with the Virgin Mary, and is said to represent her tears.

Depite its toxic properties, larkspur is commonly associated with lightheartedness and youth, probably because it grows in mid-summer, when many people have fond memories of carefree days away from school.

During the Victorian era, flowers came to have a language of their own. People used them to send messages they wouldn’t otherwise speak aloud. According to this language, pink larkspur symbolizes fickleness, white larkspur symbolizes joy, and purple larkspur communicates that the recipient is sweet.

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1 comment

1 Frutero { 07.04.11 at 11:23 pm }

July in the Midwest was, for me, the broad fields of blue chicory that spread out under the July sky, reflecting its summerhazy blue. In South Florida, on the other hand, it was the scarlet Royal Poinciana and the yellow allamandas that blazed against the azure glaze of forenoon and the dark, crocodilian green-gray of the afternoon storms. Here, a little too far north for most of the heat-swilling tropicals and more than a little too hot for the meadow-flowers of the North, you have to look harder for July color. Ruellias keep to the shade. On the rooftops or the telephone poles, trumpet vines rival the tropical poincianas on a smaller scale. Four-o’clocks rejoice in the afternoon. Rosa bracteata opens golden-pupiled white eyes to a pitiless sun; these heraldic blooms last only a day. Goldeneye hides in the grass, indigo morning glory peeps through the branches of the citrus groves… but most things are waiting: goldenrod and autumn bergamot for August; heliotrope morning glory and the pestiferously fertile rain trees for September. Autumn brings the meadow blues and the bell sage back for a return engagement, and once more, life breathes and moves.

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