By any other name

Flowers work in mysterious ways. I have more of an aesthetic mindset than a scientific one, so many of their basic ways are hidden from me. Beyond that, I find unusual connections to flowers. Last spring I was admiring a bright yellow flower that seemed to be everywhere in Seattle. Being new to the area, I did not know what it was, but it cheered me up every time I saw it. No one seemed able to identify it, until I stopped in a hardware store for some paint. There was the unknown bud, sitting in a pot with a helpful little plastic name tag speared into the dirt. The perky little flower was St. John’s Wort. I’d heard of it, because it’s a natural remedy for depression. Sure worked for me—I just had to look at it to start smiling. 

I had another such occurrence this week.  I mentioned to you all a flowering tree in my neighborhood with huge pink blossoms the size of carnations. It is so pretty as to look unreal, and the profusion of flowers on the tree would seem so great as to topple the sturdiest trunk. I’ve been admiring it for a few weeks now, but nobody seemed to know what it was, until I checked with a gardening friend. I double-checked his guess with a Google image Search. Sure enough, the tree is a camellia, and once again it’s a plant that I already knew about. Camellia sinensis is the tree whose leaves produce my favorite beverage—tea. It comforts at the sip and again by the very sight of it.

I would never have discovered these fun connections if I hadn’t sought out the names of these flowers. As a writer, I think it’s important to be able to properly identify the universe around you. It’s only polite to use something’s name when you mention it, and a name will trigger a memory in someone who has met that thing before. I was thrilled when I went to Mexico and saw my first bougainvillea, because Raymond Chandler mentions it all the time, and now I picture this flower in all its glory in the gritty streets besides Phillip Marlowe. It makes a nice contrast. I’m asking for introductions in all the best flower beds in town. I think Lily’s coming over for Easter. I can’t wait.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

56. Is there some tree or flower in your neighborhood that you’ve always admired? Find out its name. 


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