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The Secret Life of Flowers

In the Language of Gods and Godesses, Kings and Commoners

(page 3 of 3)


Indian Paintbrush - Snapdragon/Figwort Family · Scrophulariaceae
Symbol: Red can symbolize passion, heart and the emotions. Native American symbols include fire, success, and the sacred; while Buddhist symbols include fire, blood and the life force.

Fact: The most common form of Indian Paintbrush (also known by the common name of scarlet painted cup) is scarlet red or bright orange, but it can also be found in a variety of colors from pale yellow or green to pink, purple, magenta and bright orange. Paintbrush was used by Native American Indians to soothe burned skin or to ease the sting of certain insects. Semi-parasitic—the paintbrush roots receive part of their nourishment from the roots of other native wildflowers and native grasses (without killing the host plant). Also, the red “flowers” are actually modified leaves called bracts. The actual flowers are small with yellowish-pink petals and are found at the base of each bract.

Legend: Cherokee legend tells the story of a young boy who wanted more than anything else to be a great warrior for his tribe. But he was very small and couldn’t keep up with the bigger boys as they learned the skill necessary to become warriors. A wise shaman told the boy that he had a different gift from the other children. And so he began to paint pictures of all the events and happenings of the tribe. As a young man, he became obsessed with capturing the colors and beauty of the sunset, the colors of which kept eluding him. Frustrated, he appealed to the Great Spirit, who gave him paintbrushes dripping with the colors of the sunset. The boy worked feverishly, tossing each brush aside as he finished his masterpiece. Wherever he tossed a brush, the hillsides bloomed with brilliant wildflowers in every hue of the sunset. Legend holds that, every spring, the Great Spirit sends the colors of the sunset to remind us of the little boy who captured the sunset for his tribe.


Lewis Monkey Flower - Snapdragon/Figwort Family · Scrophulariaceae






Western Lupine - Pea Family · Leguminosae







Buckwheat - Buckwheat Family · Polygonaceae







Grass of Parnassus - Saxifrage Family · Saxifragaceae






Sticky Geranium
Geranium Family • Geraniaceae
Symbol: Health, love and protection; friendship and remembrance.

Fact: In some parts of New England, geranium plants were believed to ward off snakes. It was also thought that a geranium in the window prevented flies from entering the house. Historically, geranium has been used for the treatment topically of dermatitis or acne, and it was also a popular cure for dysentery and cholera.

Legend: According to old Moslem legend, the prophet Muhammad imbued geranium with its lovely scent, when one day he passed by a humble weed on his way down from the mountain. He stopped to rest and hung his shirt on the plant to dry. The geranium held it up to the sun until it was dry and this pleased the prophet so much that he covered it in beautifully-scented and brightly-colored flowers.


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