Birth Flower for September: Forget Me Not + Aster...
I have to confess that when I looked up the birthflower for this new month of September, and found it to be the Aster, I was a little surprised.
Well it's a sweet enough flower...but glamorous??? It doesn't quite seem in the same league as the other birthflowers (like the lily or the rose), although I rather love the fact that a simple, humble flower stands in the same company.
The other flower for the month is the Forget me not...and that is a humble little plant too.
Is there a pattern going on with September???
Let's dig a little deeper to discover a bit more about this month's birthflowers...
Aster means "Star" in Ancient Greek, referring to its star like formation of petals.
In the Language of Flowers, it symbolises love, faith, wisdom and colour. If given to a lady in Victorian times, it would have told her that the giver believed her to be dainty, trustworthy and patient.
At the height of Floriography (or the Language of Flowers on which this series is based), which was the 19th century, the genus of Asters included species from every continent except Australia, and a great many plants that later turned out to be close cousins.
So these gorgeous China Asters were generously lumped into the group. (Now, these are glamorous little flowers... no, actually, glamorous huge flowers, because that is a better description of their size.)
China Asters are not really Asters, belonging to the Callistephus genus, but they share the same Asteraceae family as Asters.
(Is your head whirling???)
And the Aster genus also included the species introduced to Europe from North America, like the Aster Novi-Belgii (or New York Aster, perhaps most commonly known as Michaelmas Daisies), now reclassified as Symphyotrichum dumosum.
But around 20 years ago, the Aster family went on a very selective diet (based on a new understanding of the genetic differences between Old World and New World varieties), slimming itself down to around 200 species, of which all but one come from Eurasia.
The purple flowered Aster amellus is now the type species, and the aster does still come in lots of lovely colours, such as purple, pink and yellow.
And just to confuse everybody, many botanists, florists and plant growers still refer to the reclassified groups as Asters.
Are you bewildered yet? Never mind, forget all that, because now we are going to find out about the other September birthflower, the little Forget me not...
No confusing reclassifications here...what you see is what you get with the gorgeous Forget me not plant.
It belongs to the genus Myosotis (meaning mouse's ear in Ancient Greek, referring the shape of the leaf).
The enchanting name "Forget me not" is an English translation of the older French term for the plant, "ne m'oubliez pas" or "don't forget me".
I always like to think they have such a name because they have a delicious habit of popping up in the garden when least expected, and quite forgotten about, as the little seeds will spread quite easily.
Blooming in spring (which here in Australia is now), they love partially shaded moist spots, and come in both annual and perennial varieties.
While they have been introduced to many temperate parts of the world from their native Europe, there are also many species from New Zealand.
In the Language of Flowers, apart from the obvious meaning of remembrance, a gift of the little flowers would also symbolise true love of the enduring variety and faithfulness.
It was frequently depicted as a symbol of remembrance in Victorian cards too, artfully arranged in baskets such as this.
And it was a popular emblem on postcards in the 19th century, to remind the recipient not to forget the traveller.
Forget me nots are most commonly found in that delicious shade of pale blue for which they are famous, but they can also be pink or white.
The flower was used as a poignant symbol by the English king Henry IV during his exile in 1398, and thereafter on his return to England, to remind his subjects that he was not to be forgotten.
A spray of Forget me nots was often given to soldiers going into battle as far back as the Middle Ages, especially in Germany. And similarly, the soldier's lady love might wear the flowers to remind other would be opportunistic suitors of her faithfulness.
So if you are September born, you can choose between the Aster daisy (flowering now in the Northern Hemisphere) or the Forget me not (flowering now in the Southern Hemisphere) as a birthday gift.
That should cover most birthdays this month around the globe!
images :: montage 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8 // aster amellus // plate V and plate VI scanned by me from Daisies by John Sutton // european asters // forget me nots image from my (previous) garden // old victorian card in my collection scanned by me // forget me not envelope postcard // forget me not artwork