For many people the forsythia plant is one of the best representatives of spring. When the forsythia – which is a deciduous shrub that is native to Asia and Eastern portions of Europe – bursts forth with bright yellow blossoms, gardeners know that spring has officially begun. Forsythia is a genus which contains roughly eleven species and belongs to the modestly-sized oleaceae family. These hardy plants can grow in a variety of sizes – from a relatively small 1 foot to a large 10 feet in height. Although the flowers of these plants are almost exclusively yellow, their foliage can vary in shades of green, and can even come with hints of cream or maroon. The leaves are ovate, heavily toothed along the top, and can grow 3 to 5 inches long.
In 1770 the forsythia plant was officially given a name. The name forsythia was given to this beautiful plant to honor of William Forsyth, the Scottish botanist who was employed at the Apothecaries Garden in Chelsea, and later became one of the founders of the Royal Horticultural Society. It is no surprise that having this plant named after you would be considered an honor, as they are not only lovely to look at, but enormously useful as well. In China, the forsythia plant has become an important staple in herbal medicine. This plant – which is considered to have both cold and bitter qualities – is connected to the gall bladder, heart and lungs. For ages it has been used to treat a variety of infections – most notably, bronchitis – because of its powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties. In fact, one study indicated that the use of forsythia teas and tinctures was more effective in treating the symptoms of bronchitis than the use of chemical antibiotics. In addition to being a powerful herbal remedy, forsythias can also be made use of in arts and crafts. These plants are easily dried and can be made into anything from wreaths to decorative centerpieces.
As well as symbolizing the beginning of spring, the forsythia plant is also thought to represent anticipation. As a gift, these plants are often traded between long-separated lovers, thus expressing the giver’s excitement of seeing the recipient. Although a mixed bouquet can make a great gift, many people prefer to give forsythia flowers all unto themselves. They may be picked and placed in a small nosegays, presented on a long branch, or given fresh in a pot.