The continuing discoveries of a 21st century artist and naturalist …
After my last blog on blue flowers I started thinking about color associations. As a synesthete color is always ‘on my mind’ – if you’ll pardon the pun. As a visual artist, color is the most important element – with the exception, perhaps, of basic drawing skills – in artwork. I think basic drawing skills are the foundation of any good painting and only say ‘perhaps’ because of a belief among some artists that projecting and tracing the basis for a painting is acceptable. But in our society pink and blue have always had connotations associated with gender – that is, in my lifetime.
In preparing this piece I explored the origins of blue=boy/pink=girl and found out:
“…a 1918 trade catalog for children’s clothing recommended blue for girls. The reasoning at the time was that it’s a ‘much more delicate and dainty tone,’ Finamore says. Pink was recommended for boys ‘because it’s a stronger and more passionate color, and because it’s actually derived from red.’
To our 21st century ears, all this men in pink stuff may sound a bit blushy. ‘It’s so deeply entrenched in us and our culture,’ says Finamore. ‘We think of pink as such a girlish color, but it’s really a post-World War II phenomenon.'” (Girls Are Taught To ‘Think Pink,’ But That Wasn’t Always So by Susan Stamberg)
“Queen Victoriain 1850 or 1851 with her third son and seventh child, Prince Arthur. In the 19th century, baby boys often wore white and pink. Pink was seen as a masculine color, while girls often wore white and blue.”
Thus our obsession with whether a baby wears blue or pink, based on their gender, is a relatively recent contrivance. So whether you see these flowers as feminine or masculine enjoy them for their beauty…..just for being pretty in pink.
Family: Caryophyllaceae; Genus: Dianthus; Species: armeria
The family name is a derivative of the latin term caryolphyllaceus meaning ‘with a clove-like fragrance; resembling the pinks (Gardener’s Latin Discovering the Origins, Lore & Meanings of Botanical Names a Lexicon by Bill Neal).
The blooms close up in the heat of summer afternoons.
Family: Malvaceae; Genus: Malva; Species: moschata
The leaves of this plant can be added to ‘wild’ salads and was mentioned as part of Horace’s diet. In Ode XXXI Horace says (in part) “Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae” which has been translated as “As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance.” But in formal translation by A. S. Kline it is written as: “I browse on olives, and chicory and simple mallow.” This makes mallow one of the earliest plants mentioned in literature.
Lady’s Thumb (a.k.a Heart’s Ease)
Lady’s Thumb is one of several ‘smartweeds’ which are characterized by their clusters of tiny flowers and ‘knotted’ stems. They are in the buckwheat family and in the same order (Caryophyllale) as the Deptford Pinks.
This is another plant that is so tiny it is very easy to miss without paying close attention to the ground at your feet.
According to Peterson Field Guide Eastern Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs
“American Indians adopted the leaf tea for heart troubles, stomachaches, and as a diuretic for gravel or kidney stones. The whole herb was poulticed for pain,rubbed on Poison Ivy rash, and rubbed on horses’ backs to keep flies away. Leaf tea is used as a foot soak for rheumatic pains of the legs and feet. In European tradition, leaf tea was used for inflammation, stomachaches, and sore throats. The fresh juice of the plants may cause irritation.”
Family: Polygonaceae; Genus: Polygonum; Species: persicaria
Rose Pink, Bitter-Bloom
The star-shaped flowers are sometimes white but more commonly – pink. In the group I found their edges were white. This wildflower, unlike many others, is a native plant in North Carolina rather than an ‘alien’ or introduced plant.
The species name is Latin for angular or angled – referring to the flowers angled, star-like petals.
Family: Gentianaceae; Genus: Sabatia; Species: angularis
Pink Azalea – Pinxter-Flower
One of the joys of living in our state is the wide variety of azaleas that are cultivated or grow wild. There is even an annual festival for them in Wilmington. While this ‘wildflower’ belongs to a shrub it is so striking, and fits into the color theme, I decided to include it here as well as when I move into trees and shrubs later.
The Latin name for this species comes from nudiflorus – meaning nude at flowering; flowering before leaves emerge (from Gardener’s Latin as referenced above).
However, don’t let this exotically beautiful flower tempt you though – all parts of the plant are highly toxic.
Family: Ericaceae; Genus: Rhododendron; Species: nudiflorum