Meaning Of Flowers

Episodes

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0201Bluebells2017103020190325 (R3)

Bluebells are a British icon, literary stars, and have recently become a besieged underdog and Brexit symbol, with hordes of Spanish bluebells ousting and hybridising with the native English variety. Bluebells are also called 'fairy flowers' as mythology says fairies used bluebells to lure and trap people passing by in the woods - especially children. Wearing a wreath of bluebells has been said to compel one to tell the truth. Bluebells are poisonous and contain about 15 biologically active compounds to defend themselves from animals and insect pests. The first bluebells are believed to have appeared in Britain after the last Ice Age. In the Bronze Age feathers were stuck on arrows with glue made from bluebells and during Queen Elizabeth I's reign starch was made from the crushed bulbs of bluebells to stiffen their big ruff collars.
Bluebells are protected under law in the UK. If you dig up and sell a wild bluebell you can be fined £5000 per bulb, as it takes at least five years for a bluebell seed to grow into a bulb, so colonies take a long time to recover from theft.
Perhaps some of this explains why bluebells came top of a recent poll to find England's favourite flower.

A second series of these very popular essays, written and presented by Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College Oxford. Following her much-praised three series The Meaning of Trees and the first series of The Meaning of Flowers, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five more of the UK's most loved flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with flowers is explored

Producer, Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

Bluebells are a British icon, voted our favourite flower but now a besieged Brexit symbol.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

0202Orchids2017103120190326 (R3)

The orchid family has the largest number of species of any flowering plant and has existed for over 120 million years. There are more species of orchid than all species of mammals and birds combined. Orchids have culinary, medicinal, artistic, historical and literary stories galore. This astonishingly huge floral family has surprises galore in this essay. Many orchids do not photosynthesise, instead obtaining food from fungi that live inside their aerial roots. Orchids thrive on every continent including the Arctic. Many orchids adapt to very specific insects, such as the bee orchid, which attracts only male honey bees and whose existence depends on those insects thriving too. Others closely mimic the faces of specific animals, including the owl orchid and the monkey orchid. They can do this because orchids have bilateral symmetry, as do human faces, unlike many flowers which have universal symmetry. Orchids produce the world's favourite flavour... vanilla, which comes from the pod of the orchid Vanilla planifolia. The genus Orchis comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning "testicle" because of the shape of the bulbous roots. The name "orchid" was not introduced until 1845.

A second series of these very popular flower essays written and presented by Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College Oxford. Following her three much-praised series The Meaning of Trees and the first series of The Meaning of Flowers, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five more of the UK's most loved flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with flowers is explored.

Producer, Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

Fiona Stafford studies orchids, the largest flowering plant family, and a UK favourite.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

0203Daffodils2017110120190327 (R3)

Richly present in art, mythology, national claims and literary works, but daffodil surprises include it not being Welsh! They are Iberian in origin and very toxic. They flourish so well in early spring because almost nothing (except a few insects) can eat them due to poisonous crystals (especially toxic to dogs). Daffodil sap is also toxic, especially to other flowers. Don't mix cut daffodils with other flowers unless the daffodils have been soaking in water for 24 hours. Recutting the stems will re-release the toxin. Despite this, the Romans used daffodil sap for its special healing powers.
Poultry keepers used to ban daffodils in their homes, as they believed it would stop their hens from laying eggs. Scientists have discovered narciclasine, a natural compound in daffodil bulbs, which is believed to be therapeutic in treating brain cancer.
The ancient Romans cultivated daffodils extensively, but they then became a forgotten flower until the 1600s. In 1629, a few Englishmen decided the daffodil was no longer a weed, starting its rehabilitation as a garden favourite after a millennium and a half. The Daffodil Data Bank contains over 13,000 daffodil and narcissus hybrids ranging in colour from yellow to orange, white, lime-green and pink.
To Victorians, daffodils represented chivalry, today they represent hope and nationalism. In Wales, spotting the first daffodil of the season means your next 12 months will be filled with wealth.

A second series of these very popular flower essays written and presented by Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College Oxford. Following her three much-praised series The Meaning of Trees and the first series of The Meaning of Flowers, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five more of the UK's most loved flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with flowers is explored.

Producer - Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

Fiona Stafford reveals that daffodils are awash with literary surprises, and are not Welsh

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

0204Lavender2017110220190328 (R3)

Lavender is put to more uses than probably any other flower and is used worldwide. It is in the mint family and is a herb. It was introduced to Britain 2000 years ago from France and used medicinally ever since, especially as a headache remedy, to treat indigestion and gas. Lavender oil treats many medical complaints, including burns and wounds, and was used in hospitals as a disinfectant and for pain relief during the First World War. Lavender-scented soaps and creams provide a relaxing sensation, because they help "ease an overworked nervous system" and there is a scientific basis to the calming smell, as essential lavender oil has sedative effects.
16th-century England used masses of lavender to scent laundry and toilets, and, to ward off bedbugs, it was routinely sewn into sheets.
During the Black Plague, in London, lavender oil and alcohol were taken as a way to ward off the disease. Bunches of lavender were sold in the streets to ease the smell of the dead and dying. Bees love lavender for chemical reasons, and it's a good source of pollen and nectar for honey.
Lavender is a very trendy modern culinary ingredient used in hipster establishments in smoothies, cakes, tea, pasta, risotto and salads.

A second series of these very popular flower essays written and presented by Fiona Stafford, Professor of Literature at Somerville College Oxford. Following her three much-praised series The Meaning of Trees and the first series of The Meaning of Flowers, Fiona explores the symbolism, importance, topicality and surprises of five more of the UK's most loved flowers. Across the series of essays, our ambiguous relationship with flowers is explored.

Producer - Turan Ali
A Bona Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 3.

Fiona Stafford explores why Lavender is now more popular than ever after 2000 years.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.