I didn't always know I was a plant person. Some people are particularly captivated by stones, some feel a kinship to animals and others are particularly great with kids. My thing is that I've always had friendships with plants. I'm enchanted by them, I love them, I say hi to them and when I get the chance, I'll sit down and listen to them. They comfort me, they share their wisdom, they heal. They awe me with their generosity, beauty and willingness to help people. It's not something I've talked about much or even had words for because the culture I grew up in doesn't really define or encourage relationships with what we consider "inanimate." So it's a part of me that remained dormant for a long time.
Ever since I was little, I've been mesmerized by flowers and trees. I didn't grow up in a gardening family so I mainly interacted with nature in the parks and yards of my suburban neighborhood or on long walks my family took along the shores of Lake Michigan. The first time I really identified myself as a plant person was when I started a year-long herbal medicine course in my late twenties and realized that I had found my people! There, I not only found others who cherish plants the way I do, but I found my innate connection to the plants themselves. Now, when I look back on key moments in my life, I realize that in each phase, I've been accompanied by a dear plant ally.
So, here is my life (so far) in flowers. I hope that in sharing, you will also feel their beauty medicine and begin to notice the natural elements that are nourishing your own life!
My mother tells me that the first object I focused on as a newborn was a pink rose gifted by a family friend. Since then, I often stop dead in my tracks to smell a rose or take a photo of one that is demanding to be properly appreciated (you can see my obsession on my personal Instagram as well as the numerous flower mandalas on MoonTentCo's Instagram).
Roses often represent love, affection, compassion, purity, innocence and passion. They're been used for centuries as medicinal tonics and for beauty. They are presented to honor transitional life-events and rites of passage such as birth, menarche, illness, romance, marriage, anniversaries and death. The antioxidants Vitamin C and Lycopene are both found in roses. They are know to combat stress, nervousness, heart disease and cancer (via Flower Essence Magazine).
At the age of five, I remember that my first conscious flower fascination was the bluebell. They grew in the garden behind my house in Evanston, Illinois and I just new they had to be connected to fairies. I loved bluebells so much that I did a report about their anatomy for my science class. I never did hear a bluebell ring and its lucky I didn't, as I only learned later about their significance in British folklore as a symbol of death.
Bluebells are symbolic of humility and are associated with constancy and gratitude. Bluebells are also closely linked to the realm of fairies and are sometimes referred to as "fairy thimbles." Bluebells are also called harebells in Scotland because it is believed that witches turned into hares and hid among the flowers. In North America, mountain bluebells were used medicinally by the Cheyenne Indians. An infusion of the whole plant was taken by women after childbirth to increase milk flow (via AuntyFlo).
Next, I fell for the humble dandelion. They grew with abundance on our lawn, which my mother refused to weed or spray. She taught me about dandelion's potent medicine as an edible bitter and topical skin healer. We ate their leaves in salads and squeezed the white juice from their stems onto our skin. I entertained myself on summer days by tying together countless dandelions in my own version of a daisy chain.
Dandelion’s common name comes from the French Dent-de-lion, or “lion’s teeth,” since the jagged edges of leaves loosely resemble the teeth of a carnivore. Historically, the leaves of dandelion have been added to spring salads to increase digestive, renal (kidney), and immune activity after a long winter of dried and preserved foods. Insulin-dependent diabetics can benefit from dandelion since the root and leaf together support stabilized blood sugar levels. Dandelion is a mineral-rich “grounding” plant that can balance us, literally with the salt of the earth. Dandelion is for the “nervous,” the “flighty,” and the person who looks for pie in the sky but has lost appreciation for the wonders of the planet below his or her feet (via BlessedHerbs).
In my late twenties, I found a new ally in yarrow. Delicate, yet strong with beautiful white, yellow and pink blossoms, I loved learning about this flower as a strong protector. Recently, on a hike in Point Lobos State Reserve in California, I reconnected with the spirit of yarrow, who shared this message: "I am the protector of boundaries. Where life appears messy and wild, I hold the edge with beauty and calm. See how I conserve and concentrate my life force energy, bursting forth my light exactly where and when it's needed. I offer my medicine to those who wish to protect their inner sun, stand with autonomy and act with balance and moderation. Truly, the secret of my power is that energy cultivated and nourished within becomes multiplied for outer radiance."
It is said that the Trojan War hero Achilles was taught by Charon the centaur to use yarrow to treat the wounds of his soldiers. For centuries soldiers carried yarrow in war for this reason. In the Victorian language of flowers, yarrow can mean both war and healing. Yarrow flowers can be added to dream pillows to encourage prophetic dreams. Taken internally, yarrow helps hemorrhage and reduces excessive menstrual bleeding, as well as easing painful menstruation. Ointments and oils made with yarrow, or the essential oil of yarrow are also useful for mild abrasions and bruises, as anti- inflammatory, chest rubs to relieve congestion and for muscle aches and arthritis (via Witchipedia).
Hibiscus was the flower in my hair on the night I met my soulmate. I woke up that morning with a strange intuition to put a flower behind my left ear but I was at a business conference and didn't know where to find one. An accuaintance happened to have flowers as part of her display and gave me one. At the time, I didn't realize it was a hibiscus flower but now it makes perfect sense. A sensual feminine flower that vibrates with the sacral and heart chakras, it's thought to attract love and make dreams realized.
The health benefits of hibiscus tea include relief from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as digestive, immune system, and inflammatory problems. It helps to cure liver disease and reduces the risk of cancer. It can also speed up the metabolism and help in healthy, gradual weight loss. Hibiscus tea is rich in vitamin C, minerals and various antioxidants, while also helping in the treatment of hypertension and anxiety (via Organic Facts).
My next flower connection was with the warrior flower thistle. I was introduced to her at the Spiritweavers Gathering during a flower essence workshop led by Joanne Ameya. She guided us to set an intention and walk in the surrounding woods until we felt a plant calling us. I was pulled to a particularly thorny and menacing looking thistle and sat down somewhat reluctantly.
When I took some deep breaths and opened my senses, thistle revealed to me a beautiful teaching that I really needed at that moment in my life: "Warning, don't tread on me! I grow with the effort of protection to bloom healing. I shield what is delicate. Being sharp has its role. Let go of guilt for hurting those that may walk into your thorns. You have the divine right to take up space, to grow your medicine, to stand tall with all your edges. Display your strength to protect what is tender and sacred to you. Blessings to the one who leaves fear behind. Love is not always soft. Use my medicine to create a field of protection around you so only those with respect and good intentions can penetrate."
Thistle is the national emblem of Scotland and is an ancient Celtic symbol of nobility of character. According to a legend, an invading Norse army was attempting to sneak up at night upon a Scottish army's encampment. During this operation one barefoot Norseman had the misfortune to step upon a thistle, causing him to cry out in pain, thus alerting Scots to the presence of the Norse invaders (via Wikipedia).
Most recently, I've been graced by the lustrous presence of Jasmine, the first flower I introduced my baby boy to. It was blooming all over Berkeley when he was about 6 weeks old and we were taking our first tentative walks around the neighborhood. The smell of jasmine stopped me in my tracks, calling me back to a connection with life and earthly joy after spending so many days indoors in the dreamy post partum period. I take it as a very sweet sign that this is the first flower for my son. I hope it brings him love, beauty, sensuality and good luck.
The jasmine flower is associated with love, beauty and sensuality. Jasmine flower buds are used medicinally to treat eye and skin diseases while the leaves are used to treat breast tumors. Essential oils made from the blossoms, used in both aromatherapy and spiritual ceremonies, evoke wisdom and invoke peace and relaxation. Jasmine is believed to be both an antidepressant and an aphrodisiac (via FlowerMeaning).