Anthropomorphising Flowers

Eremurus and alliums in a white border
Wayward eremurus with disapproving alliums in a white border

We’re not supposed to ascribe human characteristics to anything else, but I can’t help it. Somebody planted white foxtail lilies (eremurus) with alliums to provide height in a white flower border. The alliums are growing as the designer intended – upwards, but the foxtail lilies are demonstrating how they got their name. I’m fully aware that the light is drawing them in that direction, but that doesn’t stop my mind from doing its thing. The alliums are clustering in groups to gawp at and gossip about the wayward foxtail lilies.

Is an umbel sociable?

And while I’m thinking about clusters of flowers, what must it be like to be a floret in an umbel? These flowers live in harmony and share resources. Each floret is an opportunity. They are not in competition, fanning out just as much as they need to reach their potential. Together they are architectural and impressive; alone, each is simple, sweet, perfect.

Erigeron glaucus - lavender daisies
Erigeron glaucus – alpine daisy

Erigeron flowers are happy to overlap: we’d say they are affectionate, were anthropomorphising allowed. They have no concerns about personal space and don’t feel the need to look in the same direction.

Geranium and loosestrife
Geraniums competing with loosestrife – no mean feat!

Of course plants do compete. To my mind, these geraniums are in the cheap seats at the theatre or a concert, but some are unwilling to let the loosestrife enjoy their advantage. It takes me back to seeing New Wave bands live when your elbows sometimes had to be out to afford a deterrent to anyone jumping too vigorously around you, especially if you had ventured down to the front. Those were the days!

Bee on Centaurea montana
Bee tickling Centaurea montana

And does the flower know when it is foraged by something furry, and swung by the weight of the bee?

We know that the leaves of the sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) curl up when they are touched, but may not consider that every plant is sensitive to touch and vibrations. Yet it’s true. While plants might not be tickled by bees (let’s hope for their sake they are not) scientists have shown that plants can respond to the activity of pollinators by rapidly increasing the sweetness of their nectar. Making nectar is an investment for a plant: varying its sweetness is a way of conserving resources.

Shell ginger flower
Shell ginger

I’ll leave you with a striking flower with undeniably character. You may have a different perspective, but I find it hard to see this one as anything but a demanding little monster.

Shared for SquarePerspectives.

49 Replies to “Anthropomorphising Flowers”

  1. Well I guess I didn’t know we aren’t supposed to anthropomorphize as I do with everything!😁
    But my take on the last one—she’s an opera singer of course!
    Thanks for this wonderfulLy fun post, more please!

  2. All very well illustrated by you and your camera. The last one looks like a greedy baby shouting ‘feed me, feed me’. And having seen that Geraniums competing with loosestrife photo I just have to buy a vivid pink geranium to plant next to mine! Ann Folkard maybe…

      1. The most common thing that the street trees that Brent planted around Los Angeles say is “Hi Brent.” as he drives by. That is silly, but it makes him happy.

  3. What a spectacular flower that shell ginger is – like a wide-open gaping mouth ready to snap any unwelcome little insect so it appears.

  4. I’ve always felt that alliums have a sort of Triffid quality so they are probably advancing on the eremurus who are leaning backwards to get out of the way of their sinister neighbours.

  5. I was especially intrigued by the Centaurea montana. It’s recognizable as a cousin of one of my favorite flowers — the basket-flower, or Centaurea americana. As for anthropomorphizing: of course! I’ve been known to anthropomophize a rock; after that, there’s no end to it.

    1. I was going to link to Steven Schwartzman’s recent post on the basket-flower, but in going to find it, I see you’ve already seen that one. It’s a small world!

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