Animal Likenesses in Flowers: 1901

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LIKENESSES IN FLOWERS The Shapes of Some of Them Suggest Certain Animals.

From the Boston Herald.

Did you ever see a field of wild larkspur, with its rich colors—violet-purple, deep blue or white? In the center of each blossom the four petals form a little rabbit, with ears alert and listening. The white rabbit is especially pretty, and no one can fail to notice the odd likeness to the animal form. The colored leaves, which seem to be a part of the flower, are really the sepals of the calyx.

You can also find a lark in the flower by pulling off all the sepals except two, which are left for the bird’s outspread wings. The long spur, which runs backward, is the tapering body and long tail of the lark. When I was a child it was great pleasure to see my hidden bird appear as the unnecessary sepals were removed and it was just in the graceful act of flight from the stem!

Another flower of the same family, the wild columbine, takes its name from “columba,” a dove, on account of the likeness of the bright petals to a group of doves surrounding a water bowl. As soon as the colored sepals are removed this likeness is very obvious.

The snap-dragon, one of the charming figworts, is another delightful flower for a child, because he can open the gaping jaws of the dragon’s mouth, and its furry tongue and the spots and blotches of color remind him of the leopard’s spots and tiger’s stripes. The beard-tongue, with its swollen throat, is one of the same grotesque group. The monkey-flower has only to show its odd, grinning blossom to explain its Latin name—mimulus —which means “a little joker, or clown.”

By the way, the pretty gold and purple pansies display queer little monkey faces in their open flowers, which seem to nod and grimace with every passing breeze. The turtle-head is named from its blossom, “shaped like a turtle’s head with closed mouth.” This, too, is “wooly-bearded in the throat,” which adds to its general queerness of look.

The fox-glove sounds like a German fairy tale, with Master Reynard concealing his paw in an elf-made glove. (The accepted derivation of the name is “folks’-glove,” meaning “fairies’-glove,” which gives us quite as romantic a suggestion. Misapprehension or carelessness of pronunciation made “folks” be spelled “fox.”)

The monkshood also suggests a story, a bad one for the monks, for if you look well under the dark-blue hood, or cowl, made by the calyx, you will discover, cunningly hid, two diminutive hammer-like claws, the only petals this flower possesses.

The prettiest blossoms that mimic life are the bee, the butterfly, and the dove, orchids, and the charming moth-mulleins, clustered thickly with exquisite purple or canary yellow, moth-shaped flowers, ready to fly. They carry violet wool to keep the inside dry from rain, and this rich tint, with the orange pollen, makes the central part of the blossoms as gay as a tropical butterfly.

The mouse-ear and the dandelion (the lion’s tooth) and the ragged robin also suggest animal likenesses and associations, and many plants have seed vessels that are shaped like the beak and the spurred foot of a bird, as the hook-beaked crowfoot, the cranesbill, or geranium, from a Greek word for “crane,” and many others. Like children, the early observers of Nature delighted in odd resemblances, and made a kind of fairy tale of their imperfect science.

Current Opinion, Vol. 30, Edward Jewitt Wheeler, Frank Crane, eds.,1901

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Well, this is all very whimsical—making larks and doves by pulling petals off innocent flowers. Mrs Daffodil’s taste runs rather to the photo-gravures making the rounds, of snap-dragon pods, dried or denuded of their petals, forming tiny elongated skulls.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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