History of Flowers
In this article, we will be learning about the origins of flowers and their presence in human history, exploring the records of human interaction with these beautiful plants from the Paleolithic era to today’s modern times. The next section of this article talks about flowers as art subjects in ancient history, and the importance they had as muses for artists of all kinds, from clay pots, to marble sculptures, to still-life paintings. Lastly, we have put together a list of the most popular flowers and discover the stories behind their names.
If you are interested in a formal course or want to get certified as an expert on all things floral, we recommend looking into professional bodies and colleges in floristry such as the American Institute of Floral Designers or the AIFD (www.aifd.org), the Society of American Florists (www.safnow.org), the American Floral Endowment (www.endowment.org) and other similar organizations offering programs specializing in floristry.
Flowers through Human History
How far back are flowers recorded in human history? Have they always been diverse? How diverse? How did humans discover and make use of them in early history? These are just some of the things people wonder about flowers. Here is a list of answers to some common questions about the flowers as a species as recorded in human history.
Have flowers always existed? Since when?
Yes, they have. Historians and archaeologists have made use of evolving technology to dig up exactly at what period of time flowers first appeared, and came up with flower fossils. These specific fossils let scientists and historical experts determine that flowers have been around since the prehistoric period, estimated around the Paleolithic age, which was about 93 million years ago.
Were flowers always as diverse as they are now, or did that develop over time because of human intervention? How diverse?
Today, there are about 270,000 species of flowers documented across multiple professional bodies of science, and there continue to be developments in this area. As for the evolution of their diversity, recorded history only goes back to about 150 years, and there had been 125,000 species already existing.
Are there flowers that have been here throughout ancient history?
Plants similar to magnolias and herbs have been dated back up to 120 million years old, gradually evolving to their modern counterparts today. Paleobotanists, or scientific experts specializing in the history of plants, believe that flowering plants have been around in a diverse assortment of species and types for about 146 million years.
How did humans discover them? Did they make use of them in their everyday lives and routine?
While there is no specific account as to how humans discovered flowers and plants, there is evidence on the role of flowers in the everyday life of humans in ancient history. The practice of placing bunches of flowers on one’s grave, for one, is an example of traditions involving flowers that have carried over to modern times.
As we will discuss in the next section, various forms of art have used flowers as its subject and background details alike. From music, literature, sculpture, and tapestries, flowers have been a way for people to express themselves, beautify their surroundings, and celebrate momentous events in their life.
Flowers as Art Subjects in Ancient History
From Ancient Egypt to the Renaissance period to contemporary pop art, flowers have consistently been a source for the most awe-inspiring works and styles. Ranging from clay pots to still-life paintings, the depiction of flora, fauna, and other botanical elements are seen as one of the most popular source materials throughout the development of art forms and medium.
It is so entrenched in art, in fact, that flowers as the muse of artists throughout history is a course subject in itself in art studies programs. In this section, we explore the impact that flowers have on different periods in art history and figure out what makes them so attractive to artists and audience alike.
The lotus flower is one of the most prominent subjects in Ancient Egyptian art due to its symbolic meaning in their mythology, was often depicted in paintings, amulets, ceramics, and other artistic works. Many evidence also points to the use of flowers as jewelry for the royal court and treasures of the king.
In the medieval times, the emergence of tapestries as a medium for artistic creation gave way to the use of flowers and blooms as backdrops for various types of scenery. This created the form of millefleur, literally “thousand flowers”, or tapestries with repeating patterns of beautiful blossoms stitched on it. Similarly, artists from the Renaissance period used flowers as a backdrop on their myth-inspired paintings. Other Renaissance painters took flowers as a more focal point in their work and created still-life paintings of freshly bloomed flowers and intricately arranged bouquets.
During the Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Fauvism movements, painters used flowers and floral arrangements in a number of ways. Most often, flowers served as the subject of an indoor scene with a person or two beside it, which Fauvism emphasized with vibrant colors. Other times, like in some of Monet’s work, flowers were either the focal point of the artwork or the backdrop of the scene.
Today, flowers remain as a popular muse among artists thru the modern pop art and contemporary 3D art. Where pop art reimagines simple everyday objects in a different light – and color – contemporary 3D artists often used flowers as the components to building a sculpture of another figure or a tribute to artworks from the Renaissance and Ancient Egypt.
Flower Names and their Origins
Have you ever wondered where roses and calla lilies got their names from? Look no further – here is a short list of popular flowers and the history behind their names.
Believed to come from the Greek word carnis (“flesh”), referring to its original color, or from corone (“flower garlands”), because they were first used in Greek ceremonial crowns.
Initially called “lion’s tooth” because of the petals’ resemblance to a lion’s sharp teeth, the French translation “dent-de-lion” eventually morphed into the English dandelion.
Greek mythology’s Elysian fields were said to be carpeted in flowers called asphedelos. Adapting the first d in the name later on, it translated to the modern daffodil.
Born from Old English poetics, daisies are an evolved variation of the phrase “day’s eye”
Medieval monks, believing it would protect them from evil and lightning, called it the “Holly Tree”, later evolving into holly.
From Latin word lilium, from “lily of the valley”, because it was commonly found in valleys.
From Greek word orchis, “testicle”, it was believed that having pregnant women eat these would turn their unborn child into a boy.
Coming from the Spanish and Italian rosa, used to name the prominently red flowers.