Hydrangea symbolizes heartfelt emotions. It can be used to express gratitude for being understood. In its negative sense hydrangea symbolizes frigidity and heartlessness.
First discovered in Japan, the name hydrangea comes from the Greek “hydor,” meaning water, and “angos,” meaning jar or vessel. This roughly translates to “water barrel,” referring to the hydrangea’s need for plenty of water and its cup-shaped flower. With its wooden stems and lacy, star-shaped flowers packed closely together in a pompom, the hydrangea’s color ranges from white to blue to pink and purple, determined by the acidity level of the soil.
There remains some debate over the hydrangea’s symbolism – with some connecting it to vanity and boastfulness (perhaps reflecting its abundance of petals and lavish, rounded shape) and others suggesting that a bouquet of hydrangea expresses the giver’s gratefulness for the recipient’s understanding. Still, others suggest it represents anything that’s sincerely heartfelt. Despite this variation in flower meaning, there appears to be an overwhelming consensus that this 4th wedding anniversary flower possesses enduring grace and beauty.
Although different tulip colours carry distinct meanings - yellow tulips symbolizing cheerful thoughts, white conveying forgiveness and purple representing royalty - a Turkish legend may be responsible for the red tulip’s symbolism. The story goes that a prince named Farhad was love struck by a maiden named Shirin. When Farhad learned that Shirin had been killed, he was so overcome with grief that he killed himself - riding his horse over the edge of a cliff. It’s said that a scarlet tulip sprang up from each droplet of his blood, giving the red tulip the meaning “perfect love.”
Originally from Persia and Turkey, tulips were brought to Europe in the 16th century, where they got their common name from the Turkish word for gauze (with which turbans were wrapped) - reflecting the turban-like appearance of a tulip in full bloom. By the 17th century, the popularity of tulips, particularly in the Netherlands, became so great that the price of a single bulb soared to new heights, causing markets to crash and putting into motion “tulip mania.”
The 11th wedding anniversary flower, it’s said that the tulip’s velvety black center represents a lover’s heart, darkened by the heat of passion. With the power to rival roses in their red variety and the sweet charm to express simple joy when yellow, it’s no wonder that in addition to all its other symbolism, in the language of flowers, a tulip bouquet represents elegance and grace.
Madeleine Lemaire, from Catalogue d’exposition de la société d’aquarellistes français (Exhibition catalog of the society of French watercolorists), Paris, 1882.
The Strychnine tree is a deciduous tree native to India and southeast Asia. It is a major source of the highly poisonous alkaloids strychnine and brucine, derived from the seeds inside the tree’s round, green to orange fruit. The seeds contain approximately 1.5% strychnine, and the dried blossoms contain 1.023%. However, the tree’s bark also contains brucine and other poisonous compounds.
Strychnine takes control of the nervous system, flicking on a switch that leads to a flood of painful, unstoppable signals. With nothing to stop the nervous system from firing, every muscle in the body goes into violent spasm, the back arches, breathing becomes impossible, and the victim dies of respiratory failure or sheer exhaustion. Symptoms start within half an hour and death comes a few agonizing hours later. By the end the face of the deceased is fixed in a rigid, terror-stricken grin. It is rumoured to be the sort of poison that one could develop a gradual tolerance for. The Greek king Mithridates is believed to have slowly built up a resistance to an entire bouquet of poisons, including strychnine, so that he could survive a sneak attack from an enemy. He tested his potions on prisoners before swallowing them himself.
In The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas writes of brucine, another poison found in the seed of the strychnine tree, and suggests that after taking minute amounts and gradually building up a tolerance, “at the end of a month, when drinking water from the same carafe, you would kill the person who drank with you, without your perceiving, otherwise than from slight inconvenience, that there was any poisonous substance mingled with this water.”