The Botany of Love

It’s that time of year again. Stores are inundated with pink and red candies, flowers and cards. Valentine’s Day, or as I like to call it, Single’s Awareness Day. One of the multitude of days in the year where folks spend exorbitant amounts of money on various botanical offerings to validate their love for one another. Generally, such offerings are red, to symbolize love, or pink for friendship with a smattering of white for purity/devotion. But what are the origins of sending flowers for St. Valentine’s? The accepted history of the infamous day generally comes from the Roman priest, Valentino who opposed the Roman military’s policy of no marriage, because it was felt that single men made better soldiers. Valentino married young lovers in secret in defiance and was eventually discovered and crucified. So much for love. Another legend involves various pagan holidays celebrating fertility and the birth of man. Celebrations associated with this involved imbibing heavily and beating women to promote fertility. I swear, I can’t make this up ( But what about flowers? Where do they come into this particular celebration?

It is theorized, that Geoffrey Chaucer, of The Canterbury Tales fame, initiated the concept of romantic love and the giving of gifts with his Parelement of Foules in 1382. In it, he describes love birds (actual birds) on St. Valentine’s Day. Through a serious of events, this evolved into gifting on the day of St. Valentine, especially amongst nobles. Offerings of flowers became popular and became romanticized (no pun intended), and were thrown into much of the popular art forms of the day. We could also go back to St. Valentine himself, who allegedly received flowers while he was in jail from the couples he had wed. Popularly though, Chaucer is often credited with modern Valentine’s gifting (,

King Charles II of Sweden is credited with the idea of sending red roses as a non-verbal communication of love ( A few centuries later, Americans spend approximately $1.9 billion on flowers for Valentine’s (2014).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.