Stop to smell the roses and other flowers

The orange blossom is the state flower of Florida.

Spinning tales about flowers. Natural works of art, flowers are composed of exquisite modified leaves.

In addition to attracting essential pollinators, flowers enhance our lives. Indeed, we say it symbolically with flowers — Valentine roses, Easter lilies or Christmas poinsettias.

Symbolism has embraced flowers for centuries. The fleur-de-lis has long been identified with the French crown. In the Wars of the Roses fought over the throne of England from 1455 to 1485, the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York were significant.

In 1986, President Reagan proclaimed the rose as the national flower during a White House Rose Garden ceremony.

Moreover, flowers have power. Originating in the 1960s in California, Flower Power (a passive resistance to the Vietnam War and established values in society) promoted love, not war.

This young counterculture of hippies wore flowers in their hair and clothing with floral appliques. The flower children sang, danced and handed out flowers commonly picked from public gardens.

Similarly, the Power of Flowers Project spreads love. Volunteers recycle flowers from events and distribute them to the lonely, the isolated or the ill.

Some sporting events reward with flowers. Blankets of flowers drape the winners of the Triple Crown of horse racing.

In the Kentucky Derby ("The Run for the Roses"), red roses abound. The Preakness Stakes ("The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans") honors the Maryland state flower — although not then in bloom; therefore, yellow chrysanthemums are replacements. In the Belmont Stakes ("The Run for the Carnations"), white carnations delight.

During past Olympics, bouquets commonly greeted the champions — a substitute for the crowning olive wreath of antiquity. Yet, in recent Olympics, logo sculptures and stuffed white tigers have replaced flowers.

The ultimate floral extravaganza is the Rose Parade (Tournament of Roses Parade), usually held on New Year’s Day followed by the Rose Bowl college football game. In 2018, the spectacle included 44 flowered-covered floats. The initial parade on Jan. 1, 1890 featured horses and buggies bedecked with flowers; after the parade, young men competed in public games.

Beneficial are flowers. They provide natural medicine, often without side effects and expensive prices. Crushed, dried, in ointments or in teas, they alleviate numerous afflictions, including headaches, colds or anemia.

Flowers also provide pleasurable nourishment such as the petals of the ubiquitous rose with more than 100 species — strawberries, apples and other fruits also belong to the rose family. Parts of flowers used, for example, in teas, salads, syrups or garnishes should be researched for safety. Organic flowers are more reliable to ingest. Nursery products commonly retain pesticides, and roadside species are covered with toxic emissions from vehicles.

Fortunately, the hair in the flowers, leaves and stem of such a plant as the honeysuckle absorb these pollutants. Hopefully, the honeysuckle might soon be hybridized with more hair to absorb more carbon dioxide — it will eat smog.

Also esteemed are some Florida flowers. The state flower is the fragrant, white orange tree blossom, commercially used for perfume and honey. The state wildflower coreopsis (tickseed), ranging from yellow to pink, maintains highway beautification and prevents erosion. The exquisite purple passion flower grows on a vine that is a common host to the zebra longwing, the state butterfly.

Enduring is the joy of flowers, but no one is promised a rose garden. Therefore, poet Jorge Luis Borges suggested, "So plant your garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers." And do stop and smell the roses! 

Haiku by Hailey Scalia,

age 11

Since the dawn of time

Showing love, thanks, and sorrow

Flowers inspire us