Nasturtium flowers belong to the genus tropaeolum, and are members of the small family tropaeolaceae. These blossoms, which are native to regions of Central and South America, may be either annual or perennial, and can bloom as trailers, climbers or bushes. Nasturtiums are very simple in form, being made up of five-petaled flower heads; three distinct pistils; a nectar tube; and rounded, shield-like leaves. What makes these small plants extraordinary is their bold colors – colors that are so intense, they are said to be incredibly difficult to photograph. Their hues range from purple, blue, yellow, pink and red; however, depending upon the variety, they may bear unusual markings, or may be tipped in shades of green.
Nasturtium flowers are undoubtedly one of the most recognizable blooms around. This is not surprising, as their large seeds and ease of care make them a favorite amongst young gardeners-in-training. One fact that many people are unaware of, though, is that nasturtiums are not only easy to grow, but they are also considered quite useful. These plants began wide cultivation during the early 16th century, when seeds were brought to Spain by the Spanish conquistadors. During this time period, it was discovered that these blossoms could be used to treat wounds and help prevent infections. In the later half of the 16th century, nasturtium flowers made their way into Europe. At the start of the 17th century, they were predominantly grown in abbey gardens, and used for a number of medicinal applications. One of the more interesting uses was discovered by the French naturopath Maurice Messengue, who created a hair lotion of the whole nasturtium flower, plus a few nettle and oak leaves, which were all soaked in alcohol until soft; when applied to the head, this potion was said to help prevent hair loss. In more modern times, these plants are still used for medicinal purposes, treating a variety of bacterial, fungal and viral infections. However, they are more commonly seen as a uniquely flavored food staple. They are frequently eaten raw, fried, or pickled; they are also a favorite in soups, salads, stuffed or made into condiments, such as nasturtium vinegar salad dressing.
In general, nasturtium flowers are considered on emblem of conquest and victory; however, they are also representative of charity. As a gift, these blossoms are often given to represent the end of a struggle, or as encouragement during a long journey. Because they are also pretty and easy to care for, they are sometimes given to small children who are fascinated by plant-life. Although small nosegays can be made of nasturtiums, they are best presented as ornate potted plants, or within small flower boxes.