March 21, is National Flower Day and while most people enjoy flowers for their beauty and their fragrance, flowers provide us with many other benefits as well. Like most plants, flowers filter toxins from the air, absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen through photosynthesis, improving the surrounding air quality as scenting it.
Flowers are a critical part of a healthy ecosystem. They provide food through their nectar and seeds as well as shelter for numerous insects, including pollinators such as bees, butterflies and even birds. Native flowers can withstand their particular environment’s conditions, whether that includes extreme heat, cold or drought, helping to prevent soil erosion and nurturing a symbiotic relationship with beneficial bacteria and fungi to create and maintain optimum soil health.
Winged creatures aren’t the only ones who include flowers in their diets. Broccoli, cauliflower and artichokes are actually flowers. Jasmine and chamomile are commonly used in making tea and spices such as saffron (harvested from crocuses), cloves (the flower buds of the tropical evergreen tree of the family Myrtaceae, which also includes the bay rum tree, clove, guava, allspice, and eucalyptus) and capers (the immature flower bud of the Caper bush).
Whether we’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary, new baby or new job or mourning the passing of someone we care about, we include flowers in many of our social and personal rituals. As such, flowers have come to be associated with certain meanings – rose a symbol of love, lily mourning, daisy innocence, astilbe patience, hyacinth playfulness, iris wisdom and trust and many more. We have a flower for each month of the year and each one of our states.
Some other flower facts:
- During the 1600’s, tulips were so prized they were more valuable than gold.
- Gas plants are aptly named – on warm summer evenings they emit a clear gas that is actually flammable.
- Not all flowers are sweet smelling. Titan arum earned its name The Corpse Flower due to its foul smell.
- Many orchids are epiphytes – meaning they don’t need soil to grow.
- During medieval times, lavender was thought to be useful in warding off the plague as well as lice.
Why not celebrate National Flower Day by planting some flowers in your yard or sending flowers to someone you love (that can include yourself!). Enjoy a little spa day with floral soap and lotion or take a lavender bath. Check out some botanical gardens online, explore the works of botanical illustrators or check out The Botanical Society of America’s site (cms.botany.org) for a list of botanical resources and interesting information.
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett