What’s in a name?
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet famously asks, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. . .” She seems to be arguing that it doesn’t matter to her that Romeo is a Montague, the rivals of her family the Capulets. She loves him regardless of his name.
Family feuds aside, Juliet does raise an intriguing point. What is in a name? As I have become immersed in the world of flowers, I am often puzzled by the names of the various blossoms. All the reading I have done has taught me that some of the name origins are wonderful. Others leave me scratching my head. July’s Birthday Blossom, the lovely larkspur, falls somewhere in the middle.
Why is larkspur called larkspur?
Horticulturists could tell you that larkspur is not the scientific name of the flower. Larkspur is the common name of certain Delphinium species. If you are interested, the genus name Delphinium derives from the Latin or Greek word for dolphin (they are very similar), referring to the shape of the glands that produce the flower’s nectar (called nectary for flower geeks like me). Delphinium species names are fun: Blue Dawn, Cherub, Galileo, Landgen’s Pandora, Sunkissed, to name just a few. The shape of these flowers is definitely suggestive of a dolphin leaping out of the water.
As for the common name of certain Delphinium species, some say that larkspur gets its name from the five sepals of its flower which grow together to form a sort of pocket with a spur at the end. I read somewhere that in Tudor England the name was used because the nectar sepal resembled the claw of a lark. I have never seen a lark’s claw up close and while I can see the spur, I don’t know why it is a lark’s spur, as opposed to someone else’s spur. Regardless of the why, somehow I like the name, and not just because it happens to be my own Birthday Blossom. The larkspur stands for lightness and to me the name fits. It is light and playful, two qualities that seem to match well with a summer month like July. I think I will use my Birthday Blossom tote for a trip to the park with my children today. Light and playful seems fitting.