Glossary of Flowers: C


A plant of the family Cactaceae, a large group of succulents found in almost all countries. A cactus plant is striking for its fleshy green stem, which performs the functions of leaves (commonly insignificant or absent). Cactus flowers are notably delicate in appearance although usually large and showy they are commonly yellow, white, or shades of red and purple. Interestingly, bats pollinate many species. Cactus fruits are berries and are usually edible.

The abridged leaf surface, the enlarged fleshy stem, which is made specially to store water and retain it make the plant particularly adapted to regions of high temperature and long dry periods. Cactus is symbolical of great endurance.

Most cacti come into bud in the spring for a very short period. The blossoms are very sensitive to light, and often some species blossom only at specific times of the day.

One of the most famous of the cacti is the night-blooming cereus usually classified as Selenicereus or C. grandiflora. Its scented blossoms unfurl at a visible rate after sunset and last only a single night. In many of its native habitats the flowering of this cactus is celebrated with festivals. The appearance of cactus in some traditions signifies grandeur and warmth.



The ‘Camellia’ says, “You’re a flame in my heart”. However, in strict scientific language, the flower got its name from the 17th century botanist Joseph Kamel (Latinised ‘Camellus’), who was a Moravian Jesuit who collected plants in the Philippines Island. The red camellia does symbolise excellence. 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.



Dianthus Caryophylhus stands for devoted love and fascination, especially a woman’s love. The lovely ‘carnation’ is perhaps derived from a misreading of an Arabic word, or the Latin- ‘carnatio’ (-onis means fleshiness) since carnations range in colour from light pink to deep crimson.

The red variety says “My heart aches for you” and talks of a deep admiration while the pink carnation says, “I’ll never forget you”. A white carnation is believed to symbolize sweet, lovely innocence, a kind of woman’s good luck gift; while the purple shade shows capriciousness.

Sending carnations is a special way of sending a significant message to one’s beloved.

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom

The cherry tree has inspired many a poet to sing about its worth and beauty. The cherry tree is a majestic symbol of education. Cherry is the name for several species of trees or shrubs of the genus Prunus of the family Rosaceae. The small, round red to black fruits are botanically designated drupes, or stone fruits, as are those of the closely related peach, apricot, and plum.

The cherry is one of the most commonly grown home-orchard fruits. Though a small stone fruit, the cherry often evokes artistic comparisons due to its bright ruddy hue. In fact, the cherry stands for virginity. The cherry blossom is a symbol of spiritual beauty.

Several species of the flowering cherry, many native to East Asia, are cultivated as weeping or erect trees for their beautiful, usually double flowers.

Interestingly, the cherry blossom has evoked a festival in honour of this flower .The Japanese make a national festival of cherry-blossom time. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, held annually in Washington DC, celebrates the delicate beauty of cherry tree blossoms. The three thousand cherry trees were a gift from the city of Tokyo in 1912.

Cherries are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, of the class Magnoliopsida, and order Rosales.



Happy dreams show a joyous frame of mind. To dream of clovers, is particularly auspicious since it indicates good health, prosperity and future happiness.

A clover is any plant of the genus Trifolium, leguminous hay and forage plants of the family Leguminosae. The Greeks in garlands and other decorations used clover. The druids held it a blessed flower.

It is said to have been the early emblem of Ireland from which the shamrock is derived, and it is an emblem of the Trinity. English and American poets have celebrated it. A four-leaved clover is thought to bring good luck.

The white clover or Trifolium repens is common in pastures and meadows while the red clover called Trifolium pratense is grown for forage. The white blooms express the yearning: ‘think of me’. In fact, the four-leaved clover is not only a sign of good luck, it also is a soft way of saying: ‘be mine’.

Clover is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, of the class Magnoliopsida and order Rosales.



Chrysanthemum is the name for a large number of annual or perennial herbs of the genus Chrysanthemum of the family Asteraceae, to which belong the corn marigold and the ox-eye daisy.

Interestingly, Japan is considered as the ‘Land of Chrysanthemum’.

The chrysanthemum is the floral emblem of the imperial family of Japan. In fact, the highest officials are honoured by orders of the chrysanthemum. The flower heads are mostly late blooming and of various shades of red, yellow, and white; they range from single daisy like to large rounded or shaggy heads.

It is supposed that Chrysanthemums were introduced to England in the late 18th century, and today innumerable named horticultural types exist.

Chrysanthemums rank with roses in commercial importance as cut flowers and pot and garden plants.

Chrysanthemum has bright colourful double flower heads, suggesting love. The gift of a red chrysanthemum is the token of love, while the yellow chrysanthemum implies slighted love. In fact, the chrysanthemum represents wealth and abundance, and says “You are a wonderful friend”.

Chrysanthemum is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, and order Asterales, family Asteraceae.



In the religion and mythology of every ancient nation, the garden, fragrant with the varied sights and smells of beautiful flowers, is portrayed as the natural habitat of gods. Often sacred meaning is endowed upon certain flowers. Prominent among these is the columbine.

The columbine (A. vulgaris) is a plant of the Ranunculaceous genus Aquilegia, with coloured sepals and spurred petals, giving the appearance of a bunch of pigeons. The generic name of Aquilegia is derived from the Latin aquila (an eagle), the spurs of the flowers being considered to resemble an eagle’s talons. Formerly the columbine was known as Culverwort, the Saxon word culfre meaning a pigeon.

In fact, literally, ‘columbine’ is derived from the Latin word columba which means ‘like a dove’ or ‘dove-coloured’, though in the secret language of flowers, the ‘columbine’ often represents folly, from the mythological perspective, its petals symbolize the seven gifts of the spirit. The wild columbine has only five petals, however, early artists, with their fervent imagination and devotion to the religious symbolism, retained the meaning by painting seven flowers on one stalk. The leaves are dark and bluish green on the upper surface and greyish beneath. The Columbine may be distinguished from all other flowers, by having each of its five petals terminated in an incurved, hornlike spur. The petals are tubular and dilated at the other extremity. Interestingly, the flowers are perfumed like hay.

The flower is referred to in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and in one of Ben Jonson’s poems:

‘Bring cornflag, tulip and Adonis flower, Fair Oxeye, goldylocks and columbine.’

The ‘columbine’ holds yet another significance- in pantomime, a ‘columbine’ refers to the sweetheart of Harlequin. The term ‘columbine’ is derived from its Latin source – ‘columba’ which means ‘ a dove’. In fact, closely related to the religious connotation of the flower ‘columbine’, the term ‘columbarium’ (derived from it) signifies a ‘dovecot’ or a ‘niche for a sepulchral urn’. Thus, the natural and beauty of the flower is enriched by the multi-layered significance attached to it.



For years, flowers have been used to convey secret messages of love and affection. In the past, the selection of flowers was limited, and people used them more as symbols and gestures, preferring this pretty discreet way of speaking sentiments, to loud verbal communication.

Simply speaking, from the scientific point of view, the crocus is a bulbous iridaceous plant with brilliant yellow, purple or white flower. These blooms are cultivated for their showy, solitary flowers, which are among the first to bloom in the spring. The true crocus blossoms are of a yellowish or saffron shade.

However, a lesser-known fact about this beautiful flower is that it is dedicated to the special day for lovers. Yes, the Crocus is dedicated to St. Valentine, the Christian martyr after whom Valentine’s Day was named. While the exact origins of this day are lost, many believe that the 14th of February was selected for the celebration of Christian martyrs to disrupt celebrations of Lupercalia-a Roman fertility festival. No wonder, the crocus flower is always associated with youthful joy and merriment.

There is a similar flower called autumn crocus, a perennial garden ornamental (Colchicum autumnale) of the family Liliaceae. The purplish flowers, which bloom in the fall when the leaves are gone, resemble those of the true crocus but have six stamens instead of three. The meadow saffron or the autumn crocus is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, of the class Liliopsida, and order Liliales.

Crown Imperial

Crown Imperial

While the glittering diadem on the royal head has inspired much awe and wonder, among the multihued wonders of the floral world, the plant ‘crown imperial’ stands at the helm of its species.

An Iranian plant, Fritillaria imperialis, of the lily family, the crown imperial is an imposing blossom, due to its foxy scent. The orange-red or yellow flower bells with a mysterious ring of dark spots, topped with a leaf rosette, are borne upon stout stems with light green leaves. This flower, in accordance with its royal nomenclature, needs extreme care with regard to soil and temperature, as it needs well-drained fertile soil. The bulbs may rot in wet conditions, thus the plant is sometimes tilted to the side to ensure proper blossoming. This blossom is normally grown as an ornamental.

Dedicated to St. Edward, and celebrated on the saint’s holy day of the 18th of March, the ‘crown imperial’ is a perfect emblem of majesty and pride of birth.



The most difficult thing to do is to say ‘goodbye’. Parting and separation are an integral part of life, yet, how often we cower away from the thought of saying goodbye to someone we love! At times such as these, offering a cyclamen often shows greater sentiment, a more valuable emotion than bombastic words of farewell.

The ‘cyclamen’ is a South- European genus of Primulaceae with several nodding flowers and bent-back petals. Traditionally, the gift of a cyclamen meant the end of a relationship and a final ‘goodbye’.

Cypress Tree

Cypress Tree

Cypress is the common name for members of the Cupressaceae, a widely distributed family of coniferous shrubs and trees, several yielding valuable timber.
Botanically speaking, the cypress is a narrow conifer, which creates a spire of densely packed evergreen, rich, deep blue-green foliage. The cypress of classical literature is the European C. sempervirens or Italian cypress. It has since early times been symbolic of mourning and, more recently, of immortality. The gates of St. Peter’s at Rome, which stood for 1,100 years, were made of its wood. The funereal, or mourning, cypress (C. funebris) of China, with “weeping” branches, is a popular ornamental elsewhere. American trees of the genus Chamaecyparis of the same family are also called cypresses.

The cypress branches were carried at funerals; hence, the cypress flower is associated with death, melancholy and mourning.

Thus, flowers not only show love and longing, flowers such as cypress indicate respect and dignity for the departed souls of our near and dear ones. The true cypress family is classified in the division Pinophyta, of the class Pinopsida, order Coniferales.