Well, it started out innocently enough. I took photos of every flowering plant that I saw while I waited for Mickey to sniff everything he found sniffworthy. Aware that many of these plants were weeds and likely invasive species, I struggled briefly with my conscience but then was drawn in by the colour and the shapes I saw through the lens. I reasoned that I could always go back and pull some of these weeds later but in the meantime they would provide a diversion while the dog dallied.
Later, I sifted through the images and contemplated topics for my next post. I’ve already written about the delights of macrophotography; I’ve discussed the usefulness of flies as pollinators; I’ve revelled in the infusion of hope brought about by spring colours. No expert on the topic of invasive species, I was not inspired to write about them.
It seemed like a good idea to check out some of the Latin names for plants I’d seen as often the origin of the name inspires me. And there it was – centaurea cyanus – bachelor button or blue cornflower. I did not expect to be drawn down a rabbit hole of such depth by that simple flower, nor did I anticipate the flood of ignorance I would feel at not knowing some of the background of this plant.
My history with the bachelor button goes back to my grandma Campbell because the plants I had in my garden came from divisions of the ones in my mother’s garden and she brought her plants to Pemberton in 1953. Mom never told me that wreaths of cornflowers had been found in Tutankhamun’s Tomb. She also did not mention that “… between 1934 and 1938, when the Nazis were a banned party in Austria, it was the secret symbol they used to wear to recognize each other.” These days, the Austrian Freedom Party, which has been criticized for promoting racism, claims the bachelor button as a symbol. On the other hand, the Bachelor Button is also worn in France on November 11th to celebrate Armistice Day.
Several European political parties have adopted the cornflower as a symbol, generally because in lore the flower has been associated with hardiness. The ALS Society of Manitoba chose the Bachelor Button as their symbol because they felt it represented courage. Other stories associate the cornflower with romance and tenderness, hence the term Bachelor Button. Sources suggest that either women or men would wear one of these flowers and hope that it did not wilt by the end of the day, in which case the one they loved would be a good match. (Who needs Tinder when such reliable match making is to be had for free?)
I had almost forgotten, as well, the cornflower print on our old casserole dishes. Years of mashed potatoes and stews and plum cobbler have not worn these out and the long rectangular one has rarely been used as it was too shallow for our family dinners so was relegated to the top shelf. The bright blue flowers have never been scrubbed off. I do not know why the artist picked the cornflower as the motif for these dishes. Hopefully, beauty incited the choice.
My conundrum now is what to do with this new information. Should I stop posting pictures of random flowers and creatures for fear they represent an ideology of which I’m unaware?
As with most things these days (and likely in days of old) actions and choices will be criticized by some and acclaimed by others and it’s my job as a human being to do my best to highlight the positive without ignoring the negative.
I guess I have my answer – so here is a photo of a beautiful blue flower whose petals soar like birds in the wind. Look closely at the purple pink centre to see star-like explosions of colour.
Remember, though, that this is a plant with a history.