Glossary of Flowers: B


In India, the holy Basil is a hallowed plant, dedicated to both Krishna and Vishnu, and is cherished in every Hindu house. Probably because of its virtues, in disinfecting, and vivifying malarious air, it first became inseparable from Hindu houses in India as the protecting spirit of the family. The strong aromatic scent of the leaves is very much like cloves.

Every good Hindu goes to his rest with a Basil leaf on his breast. It is thought this facilitates his entrance into the portals of Paradise. Basil is any plant of the genus Ocimum, tender herbs or small shrubs of the family Labiatae cultivated for the aromatic leaves. The basil of Keats’s “Isabella” (and of Boccaccio’s story) is the common or sweet basil (O. basilicum).

Common or Sweet Basil is utilized in medicine and is a significant ingredient for culinary purposes, especially in France. It is a hairy, labiate plant with white flowers in whorls in the axils of the leaves, the calyx with the upper lobe rounded and spreading. The leaves, greyish-green beneath and dotted with dark oil cells, are peculiarly smooth and cool to the touch, and if slightly bruised exhale a lovely scent of cloves. The name of basil is probably derived from the Greek term ‘basileus’ which means ‘a king’. There are legends connected with basil. One theory relates it to the ‘basilisk’, the fabled creature which could kill with a old superstition is linked with common basil. It is a popular belief that if the basil leaf is gently handled it emits a pleasant smell, however if bruised, it would breed scorpions. This is possibly because scorpions rest under these pots and vessels wherein Basil is planted.

There are several forms of basil differing in the size, shape, odour and colour of the leaves. In the Victorian context of flower interpretation however, basil signifies hatred.

Basil is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, of the class Magnoliopsida, and order Lamiales.



The bellflower or the bluebell is the name commonly used as a all-inclusive term for members of the Campanulaceae, a family of chiefly herbaceous annuals or perennials of wide distribution, characteristically located on dry slopes in temperate and subtropical areas. Bellflowers are the delicate, bell-shaped blossoms and the name of bluebells signifies the prevailing colour of the flowers).

A bellflower shows constancy and gratitude. In fact; it expresses a wish to say something special.

The bellflower family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, of the class Magnoliopsida and order Campanulales. The bluebell is the common name to many plants including the bellflower, the Virginia cowslip and the wood hyacinth. A bluebell shows humility and even a sorrowful regret.

Bluebell of the Boraginaceae family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, and order Lamiales, while those of the Liliaceae family are in the same division but in the class Liliatae, order Liliopsida.



Bittersweet is the name attributed to two unrelated plants, belonging to different families, both fall-fruiting woody vines sometimes cultivated for their decorative scarlet berries. One, called also woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) belonging to the family Solanaceae.

The twigs and stems are occasionally used medicinally for a narcotic poison similar to belladonna.

The more popular bittersweet however is Celastrus scandens, a plant of the family Celastraceae. An orange-yellow capsule surrounds its berry.

In the Victorian society the present of a bittersweet indicated a platonic affection and love in some situations, it represented truth as well.

Both bittersweets are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, of the class Magnoliopsida. S. dulcamara belongs to the order Polemoniales, family Solanaceae. C. scandens belongs to the order Celastrales, family Celastraceae.



Often used as a term of fond endearment, ‘buttercup’ is a beautiful golden yellow cup shaped flower. Also called a crowfoot, this species of flower belongs to the Rannuculus family. A marsh crowfoot, Rannuculus sceleratus, indicates ingratitude- a subtle way to remind a person of his/her ungrateful behaviour. Another variation of this crowfoot is the meadowur crowfoot, also of the same genus.

The meadow crowfoot, Ranunculus aeris, is a statement of unfaithful behaviour, reflecting upon an unfaithful lover or friend. However, in the exotic language of flower-symbolism, a ‘buttercup’ shows childishness. So, next time, you wish to chide someone for a childish act, just present her/him a bouquet of ‘buttercups’! It is a gentle and affectionate way of reprimanding a loved one.