Glossary of Flowers: A


Chiefly belonging to the tropical and sub-tropical belts of the world, acacia is cultivated for ornamental and economic purposes. Acacia is a plant of the large leguminous genus Acacia, often-thorny shrubs and trees of the family Leguminosae. The name ‘acacia’ was originally used for a thorny Egyptian tree. Botanically, Acacia is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.

Acacia is looked upon as a emblem of true friendship. Apart from the emotional connotations of this symbol, it is significant due to its varied and special uses. Various Old World species provide gum arabic , especially A. arabica and A. senegal. Acacia is also famous for its lac, for being the natural source of perfume and essential oils, even tannins, while some species are used to decorate our living surroundings.

here are about 750 species of acacia found all over Australia, where it is commonly called wattles. The use of this name in Australia appears to have originated with the first British settlers who constructed ‘wattle and daub’ buildings using the pliable branches of the black wattle. Australia’s national floral emblem is the golden wattle, Acacia pycnantha. In fact, Wattle Day is celebrated on the 1st. of September to commemorate this national flower at its blossoming time.

Wattles are a conspicuous component of the landscape, particularly in springtime when the whole countryside may be aglow with their hues of yellow blossom. Interestingly, significant meanings are attached to the yellow acacia. It is supposed to be a symbol of secret love. Acacia has a feathery foliage with many leaflets, though in some forms, the chlorophyll- containing leaf like flattened stems act in the stead of leaves. The flower heads vary in colour from purplish shade to pale yellow and gold. There is another variety – the Rose acacia, of a pristine white hue, which bespeaks elegance and dignity.

Acacia has religious connotations too. In the Bible, the wood of the shittam tree is thought to be an acacia from which the Ark of the Covenant and furniture of the Tabernacle were made. The Revised Version of the Bible calls it acacia wood. In the Hebraic version, this is quite evident.

“They shall make an Ark of shittam wood…You shall cover it with pure gold…and you shall make on it a gold crown all around.”



The flowering almond has always stood as a symbol of hope. The hope, in dreams of a happier hour that alights upon misery’s brow Springs out of a silvery almond flower That blooms on a leafless bough.

The almond was introduced into England, probably by the Romans, but was not cultivated in England before 1562.

The tree has always been a favourite, and in Shakespeare’s time almond trees were abundant in the orchards. In literature, references can be found aplenty especially in the Elizabethan times. Spenser alludes to it in the Fairy Queen:

“Like to an Almond tree ymounted hye,
On top of greene Selinis all alone,
With blossoms brave bedecked daintly;
Whose tender locks do tremble every one
At everie little breath that under Heaven is blowne.”

Shakespeare mentions it in Troilus and Cressida:

“The parrot will not do more for an Almond”.

“An Almond for a parrot” was an old simile in the Shakespearean times for the height of temptation.

Almond appears in early English texts seems as Almande as in the Romaunt of the Rose. Etymologically this form is adapted from the French amande, derived from the late Latin amandela, which is in turn a form of the Greek amygdalus.

The almond has biblical references. It occurs in the Scripture as one of the best fruit trees of the land of Canaan. The beauty of the almond blossom and fruit has given rise to sacred motifs. The Hebrew name for almond is shakad, which means ‘hasty awakening,’ beseeming the unique nature of this tree, whose exotic flowers appearing in Palestine in January, is supposed have initiated the process of Creation. In the Jewish harvest festival, the Feast of Tabernacles the fruit of almond was enshrined for the decoration of the golden candlestick employed in the tabernacle. The rod of Aaron was an Almond twig. Even in the modern festivities, the Jews still carry rods of Almond blossom to the synagogues.

The classical mythology mentions almond. Servius relates the Greek fable where Phyllis being deserted by her lover Demaphoon sadly pined away to death and as an eternal compensation for her abandonment was transformed into a almond tree. It was too late when Demophoon finally returned, and when he saw the leafless, flowerless and forlorn tree, overcome with remorse he embraced it in his arms, whereupon it burst forth into happy bloom thereby becoming an emblem of true love inextinguishable by death. This is probably the reason why the almond blossom is always taken to be the eternal symbol of hope as the poet says: ‘ Hope springs eternal in the human breast; man never is, but always to be blest.’ (Alexander Pope)

Interestingly, almond has other attributes as well. It is believed to be an excellent remedy for intoxication and bitter almonds are eaten during meal times often to mitigate the effects of liquor consumed at this time. The ‘nuts’ of almond are used to extract oil, which is an important ingredient in the flavoring of soaps and cosmetics. Medicinally it is used as a demulcent. The flowering almonds are pinkish sometimes-white varieties native to central Asia.

The common almond indicates indiscretion and often stupidity. Almond of the laurel variety is used to suggest perfidious behavior. In dream language, to dream of almonds suggests a journey. If the almonds are sweet ones, then the journey is slated to be a prosperous one. However to dream of bitter almonds suggests just the opposite that is the journey would be ill starred.

Scientifically, the Almond belongs to the same group of plants, as the rose, plum, cherry and peach, being a member of the tribe Prunae, and is especially well known for its nut like edible seed of its drupe fruit. Almonds are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, and Family Rosaceae.



For a flower whose name from its Greek source means ‘unfading’ its little wonder that the blossom is always associated with everlasting love. Amaranth is the common name for the Amaranthaceae, also known as the pigweed family. A lasting red pigment in the stems and leaves characterizes the amaranth plant. In ancient Greece, the Amaranth was the symbol of immortality and was sacred to Ephesian Artemis. Commonly believed to have special healing properties it was used to decorate images of the gods and tombs.

Amaranthus hypochondriacus, known as Prince’s Feather, is an Indian annual with deeply-veined, lance-shaped leaves, with bicoloured flowers of purple and crimson shades, densely packed on erect spikes, while A. caudatus (Love-lies-bleeding) is a native of Africa and Java, a vigorous hardy annual with dark purplish flowers crowded in handsome drooping spikes with astringent qualities often used in cases of haemorrhages A. spinosa and A. campestris are forms of amaranth used in India as diuretics. A. oleraceus (Linn.) is used in India in cases of diarrhoea and menstrual disorders and the young leaves and shoots are also eaten as a vegetable. A. polygonoides, a common garden weed in India, is also used as a pot-herb and considered so wholesome that convalescents are ordered it in preference to all other kinds.

The globe amaranth is sometimes called bachelor’s button while the cockscomb (Celosia) is associated with foppery and affectation. Both are originally tropical annuals. They can be preserved dry and are used in everlasting bouquets. Amaranth is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, and order Caryphyllales.



The Anemone is a perennial herb of the genus Anemone of the family Ranunculaceae or the buttercup family. Two species of anemone are popular: the dainty little Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) and the Pasque Flower (A. pulsatilla), both possessing medicinal properties.

The genus, Anemone of the family Ranunculacea derives its name from the Greek word ‘anemos’ which means ‘wind’. While anemone includes about 65 species, there are varieties such as corms, rhizomes, while others are just ordinary perennial plants. The Japanese anemone is the only form of this blossom, which flowers during the autumnal time. Scientifically, Anemone hupehensis, of the buttercup family or the Japanese anemone is an eastern Asian plant with purple or reddish blooms. Another form of this anemone is the poppy anemone, a southern European plant, Anemone coronaria, of the buttercup family, with solitary, poppy like, red, blue, or white flowers, grown as an ornamental.

The anemone is conspicuous in the floral arena due to the presence of three entire leaflets arranged in a whorl just under the flowers, forming an involucre. In fact, the flowers themselves have no real petals, but a calyx of six to eight petal-like sepals. A species of this anemone family has been used to poison arrows against unsuspecting enemies.

A rich legendary history is associated with anemone .It is said that the anemone originated from the blood of Adonis, and even the Romans considered it valuable in preventing fever. Often anemone is applied to bruises and freckles. In Chinese symbolism, the anemone is equated with death.

In Pliny’s statement that anemone blossoms are opened by the wind. Anemones contain an acrid compound called anemonin. It is poisonous but was formerly used medicinally. Best known of the wild kinds is the white- or purplish-flowered wood anemone (A. quinquefolia), sometimes known specifically as windflower, and the greenish-white-flowered tall anemone, or thimbleweed (A. virginiana), with thimble-shaped fruit. Anemones are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, and order Ranunculales, family Ranunculaceae.

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom

Since time immemorial, the apple has stood as the timeless, unchanging symbol of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, incited by Eve, which Adam partook of and consequently, landed into the earthly realm of sin, corruption and mortality. The Apple- blossom in accordance to this Biblical story therefore contains the sense of a promise a temptation, discreet and alluring a promise, which entices, tantalizes and then may be, finally disappoints.

However, the flower seeps this subtle essence of a hidden lure and expectation.

Traditionally an apple, decorated with cloves, rosemary and holly, is the ideal gift to present on New Year’s Day since it heralds good luck and fortune. In fact, if a person dreams of an apple or an apple-blossom, it prophesies a long life, great success in trade commerce or professional career, and most importantly, a steadfast faithfulness and presence of one’s lover throughout the ups and downs of life. As in former times, dreams were listed either as warnings and omens portending to evil designs and imminent dangers, as also good dreams pointed towards some divine message and success unfolding in one’s life. Apple- blossoms sure promise such heady great stuff ahead in one’s life!



Any beautiful garden is incomplete without these hardy perennial as bedding or pot plants. Aster, derived from the Greek term meaning ‘star’, is the common name for the Asteraceae (Compositae), the aster family. They have small, daisy like or star like flower heads on leafy, often tall, stems.

Available in exotic varieties of white, yellow, pink, violet, indigo and even bi-colours, these plants flourish best in late summer till the onset of autumn and hence, this flower, is often termed Michealmes daisies. Michealmas daisies express fond farewell.

The China aster is the common aster of florists and flower gardens. It is an Asian plant that in cultivation has a very full head of ray flowers, varying from white and pink to deep purple.

The ‘china aster’ or Callistephus chinensis is a symbol of love and contentment. A missionary brought ‘China aster’ from China to France in the 18th century.

Asters are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, of the class Magnoliopsida, and order Asterales.