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. February’s official flower is the violet.
There are actually hundreds of species of violets growing on nearly every corner of the Earth. Also known as pansies or heartsease, violets are usually, but not always, flowering perennial plants. As their name suggests, violets are generally…violet, or purple, in color, but again—not always. Other possible colors include blue, white, and yellow. Violets are known for their distinctive heart-shaped clusters of petals and very sweet fragrance.
They typically bloom in the early spring, and can be either cultivated or grow unbidden as common lawn weeds.
Violets are edible, and are often used to decorate salads, or sprinkled over fish or poultry. They are also often candied in sugar and eaten on their own or used to decorate pastries, or distilled into a sweet syrup used to make violet-flavored treats or liqueurs.
Because violets are rich in vitamins, A, C, and antioxidants, they are also used in herbal medicines, and can be used topically as an antimicrobial.
The violet is said to be a symbol of faithfulness, modesty, and chastity. These meanings are connected to the Greek myth that explained its origin.
According to the Greeks, the goddess Artemis changed one of her nymph companions, who had sworn to remain a maiden forever, into a violet to protect her from the unwanted attentions of the god Apollo.
The flowers are also often associated with the Virgin Mary, and said to represent her chastity and faithfulness.