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Spring Flowers

Although there are many things to indicate the changing of the season, nothing is as potent or as beautiful as spring flowers. After having spent a chilly, white winter, most people are thrilled to see the slashes of color, and smell the heady fragrances of wild-growing blooms; not to mention the excitement of seeing your own bright garden finally starting to come to fruition. Aside from being lovely, however, spring blossoms also offer a large amount of variety that can cater to just about any taste or occasion. Though each flower has its own particular symbolism, it is not surprising to find that spring blossoms as a whole are one of the most cheerful emblems of resurrection and new beginnings.

To many people, the coming of spring flowers is such a joyous occasion that it becomes something of a celebration, and there are a number of festivals held each year to laud the vast variety of new blossoms. Such festivals include the Biltmore Festival of Flowers in Asheville, which includes a number of exciting activities, as well as a viewing of over 100,000 daffodils, tulips and hyacinths; the Callaway Gardens Spring Celebration in Georgia offers a more romantic viewing of dogwoods, daisies, mountain laurel and azaleas; the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival in Korea delivers a stunning night-time view of cherry blossoms and forsythias, amongst others; while the Feria de las Flores in Columbia is considered one of the largest spring flower events in the world, and offers enormous Silleta arrangements that can vary in shape from serene landscapes to stunning depictions of famous paintings. In addition to festivities, spring flowers are also the focus of many seasonal rituals. For instance, the celebration of the Spring Equinox represents the start of new things, and many celebrants will decorate alters with fresh blossoms in the hope of bringing good luck to their new ventures in life. The Ostara Ritual is another good example, as alters for this particular occasion are also decorated with fresh spring flora – like crocuses and bright green leaves – as they represent the newness of nature. Though many Pagan rituals include blossoms, most other religions also incorporate the fresh growth of the season into their ceremonies. One of the best known examples of this is Easter. Biblical scholars once stated that the beautiful Easter lily grew in the garden Gethsemane in Jerusalem, right at the spot where Jesus’ tears fell to the ground. Today, these lilies adorn the crosses, alters and homes of many followers during this particular holiday.

Whether you are celebrating an important holiday or ritual, or simply want to give a beautiful gift to represent the beginning of a relationship or the start of something new, spring flowers make for a fantastic option. Not only will you express all the joys of starting fresh, but you will also be giving one of the most colorful, stunning gifts around.

Wintergreen Plant

Although the term “wintergreen” applies to any plant that remains green throughout the year – even during the cold months – the “wintergreen plant” is a title that refers to the small genus gaultheria. Gaultheria consists of about 170 to 180 species, belongs to the ericaceae family, and is native to regions of both North and South America, Asia and Australasia. These plants are commonly made up of low-growing shrubs, but they may also develop into small trees. When young, these plants bear toothy, ovate, yellow-green leaves; however, as they mature, their colors deepen into a dark green, and they become glossy and thick. They also develop small racemes of white, bell-shaped blossoms which may be pink, red or white in hue.

The wintergreen plant, which is best known as something of an herbal cure-all, has a surprisingly interesting history. M. Hugues Gauthier, the Canadian physician and botanist, developed a close association with the Swedish-Finnish botanist Pehr Kalm as they explored the native flora of Quebec. Because of this association, Kalm – along with Carolus Linnaeus – christened the wintergreen plant Gaultheria in his honor. Although this was done with the best of intentions, the scientific name which was meant to aggrandize Gauthier contained a slight error in spelling that has lasted to this day. As a medicinal herb, the wintergreen plant got its start in the second half of the 18th century, when, during the boycott of British trade, American colonists began using wintergreen tea in place of the British variety. Although the American colonists discovered for themselves the curative effects of this plant, many Native American tribes had long been using it to treat everything from scrofula and internal inflammation, to rheumatism and bug bites. Today, these plants are mostly associated with their delightfully fragrant essential oils, which are used to treat numerous diseases. In addition to that, they are used to create perfume, haircare and dental hygiene products, and are a prominent additive to items such as candy, chewing gum and soft drinks.

Wintergreen plants are rife with symbolism. Generally, these shrubs are considered emblems for a calm, cool and collected attitude; however, they are also said to represent healing and protection, and are thought to help break hexes and attract luck, money and romantic partners. As a gift, these plants are often traded between friends and close family members, and are often given as small potted shrubs, or woven into decorative wreaths.

Wintergreen Plant Pictures

Tansy Plants

The tansy plant is a flowering herbaceous perennial that belongs to the tanacetum genus, and is a member of the large asteraceae family. These hardy little plants are native to Asia and Europe, and can grow in just about any soil, provided that the area is nice and sunny. Tansy plants are made up of reddish, erect stems that bear feathery, compound foliage, and button-shaped flowers. Their leaves are finely divided, pinnately lobed, alternating and dark green; while their flowers are disc-shaped with a flat top, develop in large yellow clusters, and bloom without petals.

Although the tansy plant is considered to be rather invasive in some areas, it is still well loved throughout the world for its many uses. As a medicinal herb, these plants have long been used to expel parasites from the body, to urge on delayed menstrual cycles, and to calm frazzled nerves. Although they have many uses as a folk remedy, tansy plants are better known for their culinary applications. Though consuming this plant is widely thought to be inadvisable – as it is considered quite toxic – many people still believe that it makes for a fantastic summer spice. Those who stand by this plant state that if it is exposed to a sufficiently high heat, the toxins will become neutralized. Therefore, many of its old uses have come back into play; for example, they are most commonly used in stirfries, pan-fried vegetable patties, or baked into pastries. In addition to being quite useful, the tansy plant has also found its way into myth and magic. For instance, one Greek myth tells of a young cup-bearer named Ganymede. In this tale, the god Zeus took such a liking to Ganymede that he created a potion called athanasia – which contained tansy – and presented it to the cup-bearer so that he might continue to faithfully serve the god. Its more magical associations place it in the realm of Venus, associate it with the water element, and is thought to be sacred to the Greek goddess of youth, Hebe. It has also long been placed in a variety of charms, spells and potions to help attract longevity.

Symbolically, the tansy plant is said to be an emblem for protection against adversity; it is also said to represent health and endurance. As a gift, these plants are often presented in bouquets. The flowers are occasionally arranged with other brightly-hued blossoms, while the foliage is sometimes used as an arrangement filler, or within a wreath – which can double as a very handy bug repellent.

Tansy Plant Pictures

Senna Plants

The senna plant is a small shrub in the cassia genus, which belongs to the fabaceae family, and is native to regions of West Asia. It is not uncommon for people to confuse this plant with the senna genus; however, in 1754, the Scottish botanist Phillip Miller divided the senna from the cassia, but the common name of senna remained with the cassia angustifolia. These plants are erect, branching shrubs that can reach between 2 to 3 feet in height. They are made up of tiny yellow flowers; smooth, light green stems; and long branches that hold four to five pairs of thick, veiny, apexed leaves which are gray-green on top, and yellow-green at the bottom.

The senna plant is best known as one of the most powerful natural laxatives available, but these small, lovely shrubs are used for a variety of applications. Several parts of this plant – including the leaves and the small, green-brown pod fruits – contain a wide array of beneficial agents, including the vitamins A and B, C and D. Its initial usage was brought about by the Arabian doctors Mesue and Serapion; however, it began a wider distribution when in Greece, Achiarius – who had realized the potential of the senna plant – recommended using the fruit pods in place of the leaves, as they do not cause painful “gripping” sensations. Although these plants were used primarily to help cleanse the body, in more modern times, they are used to treat a number of ailments. For instance, these plants aid in expelling worms and parasites from the system; to encourage weight loss, or discourage loss of appetite; they act as a diuretic to help restore proper secretions of vital enzymes; and they may also be useful in treating arthritis, gout and skin inflammation. Although the senna plant is exceptionally useful in a number of ways, it is not, unfortunately, without side-effects. It is not recommended that these plants be used by pregnant or lactating women, as over-use may cause a decrease in nutrients. Over-use by anyone may create a weakening of the colon, sore joints, and a weakness of muscles.

Dried senna plants were once given in sachets to help attract romantic partners. Because of this, they are now considered one of the many symbols of love. As a gift, they may very well make for an original Valentine’s Day or anniversary present, as they are not only lovely in appearance, and useful in a variety of ways, but they are also quite uncommon.

Senna Plant Pictures

Saint John’s Wort Plants

The Saint John’s wort plant is a single species within the hypericum genus, which is a member of the clusiaceae family, and is native to Europe, as well as temperate regions of North America, China and India. These small but tough shrubs are perennial plants that can grow between 12 to 36 inches in height, and form in an erect manner. The foliage is stalkless and opposing, slender, oblong, and dark to yellow-green in hue; they also bear small perforations along their bottoms, which act as oil glands. One of their most recognizable features is their bright, star-shaped flowers, which develop in large cymes along the ends of the upper branches. These blossoms are made up of distinctive yellow petals that bear tiny black markings, and a burst of feathery stamens that connect in bundles of three at the base of the head.

The Saint John’s wort plant has long been known as an exceptionally useful antidepressant; however, its applications extend well beyond that. Some of its earliest recorded functions date back to 6th century AD, but these uses had more of a religious than medicinal inkling. For example, Saint Columba – an Irish missionary monk – was said to always carry a piece of Saint John’s wort out of respect for John the Baptist. Other religious associations consist of gathering this plant on the day of Saint John’s feast, and displaying them during the Christmas season as a representation of the sun’s life-giving bounty. As a medicinal herb, the Saint John’s wort plant was first used in Ancient Greece to treat everything from poisonous bites to sciatica. The Greeks also felt that the essence of this plant could help to drive away wicked spirits. The use of these shrubs eventually spread throughout Europe, then, more recently, into the United States, where it is applied to a myriad of complaints, ranging from skin wounds to anxiety, inflammation to ear infections. The Saint John’s wort plant has also found its way into legends. One such tale states that if a young girl should pick one of the blossoms at night, it would tell her whether or not she would be married within the year. If, by the morning, the plant was wilted, it was a definite no; on the other hand, if it was still fresh and lovely, she could be sure of her impending engagement.

Over time, Saint John’s wort has accumulated a good deal of symbolism. In its earlier days, these plants were associated with the sun, and thus – as a religious allegory – is was an emblem for the spirit. It also became a representation of protection, invincibility, fertility and courage. As a gift, these plants are relatively uncommon; however, that might make them a unique choice when given to someone changing direction in their life, starting a new family, or to someone who just needs a bit of extra encouragement.

Saint John’s Wort Plant Pictures

Rue Plants

The rue plant is the common name for the ruta genus, which consists of about 40 species, and is a member of the rutaceae family and rutoideae subfamily. These strange-smelling subshrubs are native to regions of Macaronesia, southwest Asia, and the Mediterranean. The stems of these plants are woody and prostrate; the foliage is a light green to bluish green in hue, either bipinnate or tripinnate, and slightly feathery in appearance; while the flowers are tiny, yellow, and made up of four or five small petals that form atop a cyme.

The rue plant has a long history as an exceedingly helpful piece of vegetation. Although rue is best noted as one of the oldest medicinal plants grown in England, it took quite some time for it to find such a wide distribution. Some of its earliest recorded uses date back to Ancient Rome, where it was initially planted around temples as a tribute to Mars. Later, the Romans introduced it to other parts of Europe, as it was discovered that the rue plant was responsible for curing more than eighty known ailments. In Greece, Hippocrates – the well known physician – noted that this plant was the main ingredient in mithridate, a potent antidote to a number of poisons. During the time of the Black Death, many thieves robbed the fallen bodies of plague victims, but seemed to get by without any damage done. It was later learned that the immunity that these thieves received came from a homemade potion called “Vinegar of the Four Thieves,” which contained garlic, mint, wormwood, rosemary, lavender, vinegar, sage and rue leaves. This story leads into a bit of plant mythology, which stated that when the basilisk – a vicious serpent of Greek folklore – would breathe upon a garden every plant die, save for the rue. Since these plants were impervious to the vile breath of the beast, animals that were bitten by it would consume the leaves of the rue plant to soak up its immunity. In modern times, rue plants are still used to treat a number of complaints such as tired eyes, skin wounds, and arthritis. They are also used within the culinary realm, and in modern day rituals.

Rue plants carry a good deal of meaningful symbolism that ranges from health and patience, to mental endurance and pure love. Because of its unusual scent, rue plants are rarely given as gifts; however, when they are given, it is usually in the form of a wreath or small bouquet.

Rue Plant Pictures

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Ragweed Plants

The ragweed plant is a common name for the genus ambrosia, which is a member of the extensive asteraceae family and asteroideae subfamily. These plants are made up of both perennials and annuals, shrubs and subshrubs, and are mostly native to North America. The foliage of this plant is lobed, bipinnate, winged, and silvery green. Ragweeds are monoecious, and bear both male and female blossoms. The male flowers consist of inflorescences of ten to twenty florets that bear five stamens, which are all grouped together by a cupule of fifty to one hundred bracts, and are of a green-yellow hue. The female flowers, unlike their male counterparts, are produced singly, and are tiny, white and inconspicuous. Once mature, the female blossoms become small round burrs that help to distribute the arrowhead-like seeds.

The ragweed plant is considered a nightmare to allergy sufferers. These shrubs, which bear thousands of male flowers, are thought to release roughly one billion grains of pollen during a single season; this large dose of pollen can stimulate an allergic reaction, and cause severe cases of hey fever. The ragweed’s scientific name, ambrosia, may seem like an unusual choice for such a seemingly deleterious plant, but some speculate that this odd choice – which refers not only to the food of the gods, but to something that simply tastes good – likely came about because of earlier species of ragweed which had a fine flavor. Although the pollen of the ragweed plant has an adverse effect on the health of many people, these shrubs were once considered an important medicinal staple. One of its more interesting uses was as an immunity booster. Early herbalists thought that supplying small doses that gradually increased over time would cause the patient to build immunity to the plant; this theory holds true today, as modern doctors frequently dispense shots that serve the same purpose. Many Native American tribes created ragweed teas and poultices as a laxative, to help sooth stomach cramps, cure the sting of poison ivy, and to aid in the prevention of blood poisoning.

In general, the ragweed plant is thought to be a symbol of courage. Although these plants do have a lovely appearance, it is not recommended that they ever be given as gifts. Though the recipient may not have an allergic reaction to them, others in their home might.

Ragweed Plant Pictures

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Purslane Plants

Portulaca oleracea – better known as the common purslane plant – is a single species in the relatively small portulaca genus, and belongs to the portulacaceae family. These succulent annuals have a large distribution ranging from Australasia, the Middle East and into North Africa; although they have been naturalized in the United States, they are widely considered something of a weed in this area. These plants may be creeping or branching, and consist of stalkless, paddle-shaped leaves that may be opposite or alternating, and bear red, prostrate stems. They also contain tiny, inconspicuous, yellow blossoms which bear five petals, and burst forth from the center of a leaf cluster.

Although they are thought to be weeds in some regions, the attractive purslane plant has long been considered both beneficial and exceptionally tasty. Many explorations have discovered traces of this plant in prehistoric sites; however, some of the first references to it date back to ancient Greece and medieval England. Their history continues on past the Middle Ages and into the Great Depression in the United States, where its pervasive growth and high nutritional value made it a staple food. Today, the purslane plant – which has a tangy flavor when eaten raw, and a peppery taste when cooked – is used in a variety of ways, from salads to toppings, stews to soups and stirfries. The purslane plant is also thought to be exceptionally useful for medicinal remedies. This is not surprising, as they contain a higher dosage of Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable; they also contain potassium, carotenoids and calcium, as well as vitamin A, C and B. In traditional Chinese medicine, these succulents have been used to treat dysentery and urinary tract infections; medieval herbalists considered them to be a “cold” herb which would help to counteract “burning” conditions such as liver and heart diseases; in Greece they were thought be a potent blood purifier, while in Mexico they are said to be useful to those who suffer from diabetes. Purslanes also have a small place in folklore and symbolism. For example, it is one of the seven herbs used in a traditional, ceremonial nanakusa-no-sekku dish; while Pliny the Elder, the Roman naturalist, thought that these herbs were so powerful that they could be used to ward off wickedness.

Although purslanes do not contain any particular symbolism, it is not hard to see them as emblems of sustenance. As a gift, these succulents are unique, and look lovely when placed in decorative pots.

Purslane Plant Pictures

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Pokeweed Plants

The pokeweed plant – also known as the pokeberry, inkberry, or simply poke – is a common name for the genus phytolacca, which is a member of the phytolaccaceae family. These perennial herbs are native to areas of New Zealand, East Asia, and North and South America. Pokeweeds occasionally take on a tree-like appearance, and can grow between 1 to 10 feet in height. Their stems are fleshy and red or pink in hue; their leaves are alternate, crinkled, elliptical and smooth with a green upper surface, and pinkish green underbelly, which is lined with deep pink veins. They develop small, white-green blossoms which may form in an erect or nodding fashion upon the end of the stems. These flowers eventually form into round, green berries, which, as they mature, turn a deep shade of purple – almost resembling grapes.

The pokeweed plant, though mildly toxic if improperly handled, has long been an important part of many cultures. For example, many Native American tribes used this herb for a number of applications, such as pressing the juice from the berries to make both an ink and a dye; using several parts of the plant as a staple for both food and witchcraft rituals; and, most importantly, they created a number of medicinal remedies. Many of these remedies – such as creating salves to heal skin irritations, internal medicines to help treat arthritis, to purify the blood and to stop pain – are not commonly used today. However, the pokeweed plant is being investigated by independent researchers to find out if it truly does have an effect on both cancer and the HIV virus. One such study revealed that B43-PAP, a toxic material that is linked to an antibody, was found in the common pokeweed. This substance shows a good deal of promise, and, with further research, could very well lead to a cure for childhood leukemia. Researchers are also investigating the PAP, or pokeweed antiviral protein, as a way to prevent HIV from replicating within human cells.

Some species of the pokeweed plant are said to be symbols of pride in Argentina and Uruguay, other species are thought to represent freedom from oppression. As a gift, these plants are rarely given; however, they can make for a unique present for experienced gardeners who do not have any animals or children roaming around their plant plots.

Pokeweed Plant Pictures

Poison Sumac Plants

The poison sumac plant is a single species in the toxicodendron genus, which is a member of the anacardiaceae family. The poison sumac, which may be either a small tree or shrub, is considered relatively rare in comparison to other pernicious plants – such as ivy or oak – and can be seen blossoming almost exclusively in the wetlands of North America. These woody perennials are rather small, growing an average of 5 to 6 feet in height – though they sometimes grow as tall as 25 feet. Their foliage is generally smooth, their stems red, and their leaves may be ovate, undulate, wedge-shaped, oblong or tapering. Poison sumacs also bear small, inconspicuous clusters of yellow-green flowers, which eventually develop into drooping, dusty white berries.

The poison sumac plant is thought to be one of the most poisonous plants the United States. Every part of these small shrubs – save for the pollen – contain an oily sap called urushiol, a toxic allergen that can cause urushiol-induced contact dermatitis. This form of dermatitis is relatively long-lasting, and appears in the form of red, swollen eruptions and skin streaking; if the poison sumac is burnt, it may also cause a severe reaction in the lungs. Many people confuse the poisonous variety with its non-harmful cousins, such as staghorn or fragrant sumac; fortunately, there are several characteristics that can help in separating the toxic from the harmless. For instance, the berries of the poison sumac plant are low-hanging and a greyish white in hue, while the non-toxic varieties are bright red, and grow in an upright manner; harmless plants prefer dry air and well-drained soil, while the poisonous plants are commonly seen growing in peat bogs and swamps. Over time, a good deal of fiction and folklore has sprung up about this itchy little shrub. Some of the best stories state that a person might develop a rash by simply seeing the plant, being around it, or coming into contact with someone who already has a poison sumac rash; others state that you can become infected, and that the poison can lay dormant under the skin, only to pop up during the warmer months. Thankfully, these tales are simply myths; you can only develop a reaction if you come directly into contact with the poison sumac plant.

Poison sumacs are not particularly known for their symbolism; however, it is easy to identify them with discomfort, or even distrust. Although these plants are quite lovely in appearance, they make for very unsuitable gifts.

Poison Sumac Plant Pictures

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