Carnation

Carnation

Smith, Chrysti
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The fringe-petaled carnation, generous of blossom, has for decades been a standard flower in corsages, boutonnieres, and table arrangements. The pink carnation was selected in 1907 as the official floral symbol for Mother’s Day.

This blossom is a native of the Mediterranean region. The Roman naturalist and historian Pliny, writing in the first century A.D., reports that the Romans first encountered the flower in Spain, where the locals used it to spice their beverages.

The carnation may have been introduced to the British Isles during the Norman invasion. The seeds of the flower were said to have clung to the stone the Normans imported for building, and that the wild plant still grows on the walls of the castle of William the Conquerer.

During the Elizabethan era, the English spiced their wine and ale with carnations. This practice inspired an alternative title for the flower: “Sops-in-Wine”.

The name of this famous blossom may come from “coronation” because the dented or toothed petals seemed to resemble “little crowns.”

More likely the word has its origins in the Latin caro, meaning “flesh”. The pink blossoms of the carnation were thought to be the flesh color of light skin.

The word carnation has some unlikely etymological relatives in carnivore, “flesh-eater”; carnival, “farewell to flesh”; and carnage, the “flesh of battle”.
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