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Learn about the water lily and the larkspur, our two July birth flowers. One emerges deep beneath the water’s surface; the other grows on a single stalk multiple feet from the ground. Nevertheless, both provide a pop of color during the early to midsummer months!
What Are the July Birth Flowers?
Larkspurs are a symbol of positivity and dedication. They make a great addition to any garden, given their height and beautiful purple-blue blooms, but beware: these plants are poisonous!
The water lily represents purity and innocence while boosting aquatic ecosystems and serving as an inspiration for one of the world’s great painters.
The larkspur is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and is native to parts of the Mediterranean, Africa, and Europe. Larkspurs grow wild in the United States and Europe, and have become naturalized in gardens all over the world.
The common name “larkspur” may refer to flowers of the genus Consolida, which tend to be annuals, or to flowers of the genus Delphinium, which tend to be perennials. The plants are very closely related, with Consolida often being considered a distinct group within the Delphinium genus.
Larkspurs are believed to have gotten their name from their resemblance to the claw of the meadowlark. It has also been referred to as Lark’s Claw, Knight’s Spur, and Lark’s Heel.
Fully grown, the larkspur can grow 1 to 3 feet tall. The flowers, which bloom in early summer before the heat sets in, grow in groups along a single stalk. Each flower has five petals and a spur in the center. Blooms come in single and double varieties.
While it is beautiful to look at and a welcome addition to any garden, the larkspur is highly poisonous to humans and animals if ingested.
Larkspur Meanings and Symbolism
The larkspur has long symbolized positivity, loving bonds, dedication, and sincerity. It can also be used to describe lightheartedness and youth.
Each larkspur color holds a different meaning. Blue, which is hard to find in the world of flowers, means dignity and grace; pink symbolizes fickleness; white represents happiness and joy; and purple is a sign of first love.
Larkspur in History
According to Greek mythology, the larkspur grew from the blood of Ajax during the Battle of Troy. Upset that he did not receive the armor of the fallen warrior Achilles, Ajax threw himself on his sword, causing his blood to spill onto the ground and the flowers to bloom.
Other theories surrounding its initial appearance involve a slayed dragon and the mixture of its blue blood and venom, as well as crumbs from the blue sky falling to the ground.
In England, people once sprinkled larkspur in baths for protection against ghosts and magic.
In Transylvania, if larkspur was planted near stables, it was believed to keep witches away.
In ancient Greece, larkspurs were used to treat open wounds.
The Victorian era gave rise to the belief that the larkspur could ward off evil.
Once it was naturalized in the U.S., Native Americans used the blooms to make dyes and repel insects.
The larkspur is one of the few flowers mentioned in George Washington’s letters.
Larkspurs in the Garden
Larkspurs grow easily from seed and are very low maintenance. Seeds can be sown in the fall in warmer climates, while seeds should be sown in early spring in colder areas.
The plant is ideal for cottage and wildflower gardens, and will attract pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies. It’s a great cut flower for inclusion in floral arrangements, given its height.
Water lilies belong to the Nymphaeaceae family. Water lilies are perennials and come in two varieties—hardy and tropical.
Tropical water lilies are larger, more spectacular and fragrant, available in a wide assortment of colors, and have longer blooms. They come in two different blooming habits: day blooming, where flowers open mid-morning and close by late afternoon, and night blooming, where they open at dusk and close the next morning. Hardy water lilies are day blooming.
The flowers of the water lily, which come in classic white as well as a rainbow of options, are showy, fragrant, and the interlocking petals fan out for a depth of beauty.
The Amazon water lily grows lily pads up to 8 feet in diameter, producing large blooms that change from white to pink blossoms over the course of their bloom time, which only last a few days.
Water Lily Meanings and Symbolism
Water lilies, most notably the white variety, have traditionally symbolized purity, innocence, and chastity.
Pink water lilies signify joy and friendship, red means passion and romance, blue represents calm and wisdom, and yellow symbolizes energy and new beginnings.
In Buddhism and Hinduism, water lilies are said to represent resurrection and rebirth because the flowers open and close each day. Buddhists also believe water lilies symbolize enlightenment because the beautiful flowers emerge from the dark and dirty floor beneath the surface of the water.
Water Lily in History
In Greek legends, nymphs are the protectors of water, so it’s fitting that the water lily’s botanical family name—Nymphaeaceae—is derived from these female divinities.
According to one Egyptian legend, the creation of the gods began from a blue water lily.
Some nuns and monks were known to crush the root of water lilies and use it as an anaphrodisiac. It has also been used as a painkiller, anti-inflammatory, and sedative, as well as a treatment for insomnia and anxiety.
French painter Claude Monet was quite captivated by the water lilies in his home garden. He spent years painting the flowers on his Giverny, France, property and created more than 200 paintings with the water lilies as his subject.
The water lily is the national flower of Bangladesh.
Water Lilies in the (Water) Garden
Water lilies are not only beautiful, but are an important part of the ecosystem. The plants grow from rhizomes planted in muddy areas below the water surface, but their lilypad foliage provides shade to reduce algae growth, are a food source for fish and wildlife, and act as a filter for the water in which they grow.
Larger size plants can be grown in water gardens or ponds, while smaller ones grow well in containers. They do best in water that is stationary and warmed by the sun. Moving water caused by fountains or waterfalls can affect their performance.
Tim Goodwin, the associate editor for The Old Farmer's Almanac, has been reading North America's oldest continuously published periodical since he was a young child, growing up just a short drive from the OFA office. Read More from Tim Goodwin