Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Letter A

The Catholic Language of Flowers

White (false) Acacia,—Devotion to Mary

(Robinia pseudacacia: Nat. Order, Leguminosæ)

The beautiful Acacia, which raises its head to heaven, yet bends its fragrant flowers towards the earth, seems to be a figure of Mary, and of the graces which she offers to her devoted children.

Rose Acacia,—True Merit

(Robinia hispida: Nat. Order, Leguminosæ)

The Rose Acacia conceals beneath its leaves its rich bouquets of flowers; like true merit, which, always modest, seeks to hide itself, and to withdraw from the applause of men.

Thorn Acacia,—Revenge

(Gleditschia horrida: Nat. Order, Leguminosæ)

The Thorn Acacia, which, with its long, sharp spines, seems to be the terror of the garden, and inflicts a wound on all who approach it too closely, is an emblem of dark revenge.


(Ophiglossum: Nat. Order, Filices)

Detraction insinuates itself into the society of the world, assuming the garb of truth; while in reality it blights all that it touches, and, like the adder, uses its tongue but to instil venom.

Adonis, or Pheasant’s Eye,—Beauty

(Adonis: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

Mythology tells us that Adonis was the most beautiful of men, so that his name has become almost another name for Beauty. Those who gave the title of Adonis to this plain little flower, seem thus to remind us that mere personal charms are equally vain and perishable, and that there is no true, enduring beauty but that of the soul.

Agnus Castus,—The Lamb of God

(Vitex Agnus Castus: Nat. Order, Verbenaceæ)

Happy flower! privileged to bear a name which the Saviour of the world has made His own, what lesson wouldst thou teach us? Ah! I hear thee; thou sayest that we too bear the Saviour’s name, and that, more blest than thou, it is ours to know and love Him.


(Myrtus pimenta: Nat. Order, Myrtaceæ)

Like Allspice, wit is agreeable and pleasing if used with moderation, but it gives pain when used unsparingly or without discretion. God has bestowed every gift on man for the benefit of himself and his fellow-creatures: let those beware who make a bad use of their wit, and who render it a scourge to those to whom God desires them to be a blessing.


(Agave: Nat. Order, Bromeliaceæ)

How many lessons may we learn from nature! The Aloe, of which so many different uses are made, and which is equally well adapted to so many different purposes, tells us that God has placed us here not for ourselves alone, but to assist all, and to do good to all for His divine sake.

Almond,—The Merits of St. Joseph

(Amygdalis communis: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

This flower is emblematic of the sublime merits of St. Joseph. For as the Almond gives forth a sweet odour, so do the virtues of this great Saint diffuse their heavenly fragrance around, seeking to attract all hearts to the love and imitation of Jesus and Mary. His life was hidden with Christ in the happy obscurity of Nazareth, and his death was sweet and holy. Precious and abundant as the flowers of the Almond, are the graces which St. Joseph obtains for his devoted clients: he gently leads them on in the odour of his virtues, drawing them nearer and nearer to heaven; and when at length they reach the term of their pilgrimage, he bids them joyfully resign their souls into the hands of Jesus and Mary, and hasten with him to share the sweet delights of God’s unveiled presence.

Aloysia,—St. Aloysius

(Aloysia: Nat. Order, Verbenaceæ)

The name of this plant brings before us one of the brightest saints in Heaven. On earth, he bloomed amid many fair flowers, but the odour of his virtues reached even to the throne of God; and looking on earth, God loved the blossom, and called it, in its youthful beauty, to Himself.

Anemone,—Jesus Forsaken

(Anemone: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

The lonely Anemone, with its rich, deep colours, shall tell us of the Flower of Nazareth, our divine Jesus, in that dreadful hour of His sufferings when, betrayed by His chosen Apostles, and forsaken by those whom He loved, He stood alone to drink the bitter chalice of His Father’s wrath.

Wood Anemone,—Gaiety

(Anemone nemorosa: Nat. Order, Ranunculaceæ)

Hidden among our woodlands, the Anemone raises its shining blossoms, which, though often trodden underfoot, rise again as lightly as before; thus resembling those gay and cheerful spirits that bend, but do not break beneath the storms of fortune.

Angelica,—The Guardian Angels

(Angelica: Nat. Order, Umbelliferæ)

Fair flower, your name shall remind me of the gentle and loving spirit whom God has given me, to keep my steps from evil and to lead me to Himself.


(Pyrus malus: Nat. Order, Rosaceæ)

The rosiest apple is not always the sweetest; its beauty attracts the eye and tempts the taste; but, like Eve, we find too often that temptation entices but to ensnare.


(Arabis: Nat. Order, Cruciferæ)

When sorrow casts a chill over the heart, and withers the fair flowers of happiness, winter seems to reign in the soul; but calm resignation cheers the gloom, and, as time rolls on, Hope, the Spring of the heart, puts forth its beautiful flowers, which, like the early Arabis, speak of bright and happy days.

Arbutus,—Devotedness to God

(Arbutus: Nat. Order, Ericaceæ)

The Arbutus, with its crimson berries half hidden by its broad, .shining leaves, and its beautiful and precious bark: is not less admired for its beauty than prized for its worth. So rare a combination may be compared to a noble soul that exists but to glorify God, devoting every action to that end, and using all nature’s works but as steps to ascend from the creature to the Creator.

Arbor Vitæ,—Desire of Eternal Life

(Thuja: Nat. Order, Cupressineæ)

What emotions rise in our hearts as we pronounce those words, “the Tree of Life”! and how our souls yearn for that bright land where the true Tree of Life blooms, and the fountains of living water flow eternally!

Archangelica,—The Angel Gabriel

(Archangelica: Nat. Order, Umbelliferæ)

Not without a purpose has God ordained the names of flowers. The Archangelica tells us of the bright spirit who bore to the humble Virgin of Nazareth the glad tidings of the Incarnation; and, bending low in reverential awe before the future Mother of his God, declared her “full of grace.”

Artemisia,—Female Heroism

(Artemisia: Nat. Order, Compositæ)

When Artemisia, queen of Halicarnassus, came with her little fleet to the aid of Xerxes, in the great battle of Salamis, she behaved with so much courage and heroism, while his Persian forces wavered and fled, that Xerxes was heard to exclaim that the soldiers fought like women, and the women, like soldiers. Since that time, how many examples of heroism has Christianity developed in our sex!—not only such as inspired a Joan of Arc, a Lady Derby, a Lady Fitzgerald, but of that true heroism of gentle patience and self-sacrifice, without which we never can fulfil the charge which God has intrusted to our care.

Aspen,—Purity of Conscience

(Populus tremula: Nat. Order, Salicaceæ)

The least gust of wind that wanders through the woods, scarcely stirring the branches of the other trees, agitates the Aspen, and makes it tremble in every leaf. Is it not like those pure and holy souls who shudder at the least breath of evil, and fly the very name of sin?


(Aster: Nat. Order, Compositæ)

Not until the Summer gives place to Autumn, does the tardy Aster unfold its purple and golden flowers, which are often blighted by the coming Winter’s cold. Does not nature here remind us of the old lesson, that delays are dangerous, and that the future may blight the flowers which we now neglect to cull, and deprive us of the fair opportunities which the present places within our reach?


(Aucuba japonica: Nat. Order, Cornaceæ)

Among the beautiful and variegated leaves of the Aucuba, may be seen its tiny shrivelled flowers, which remind us of those persons who, though surrounded by countless objects that bear witness to the goodness of God and His love for His creatures, yet remain unmoved by the sweet influence of His divine charity, and, closing their hearts and eyes to all that is good in man, see only his faults.

Auricula,—True Happiness

(Primula auricula: Nat. Order, Primulaceæ)

The dark, but rich and beautiful colours of the Auricula, tell us that the brightest things are not always the best nor the gayest hours the happiest; but that in virtue and the practice of good works, there is a joy which vain amusements can never communicate.


(Azalea: Nat. Order, Ericaceæ)

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring the tidings of good news!” Such is the eulogy which the Holy Scripture bestows on those who, animated by a holy ardour, carry the light of the Gospel to the nations of far distant countries, or to the hundreds who, with more claim upon our care, sit in darkness and in the shadow of death within our native land.