The pretty face (and the lovely, delicate smell) of cornflower are incredibly distinctive. But what’s with the name? Why is cornflower called cornflower?
Read on, for the answer to this question – and come others, all related to our favorite little native flower.
What You'll Learn Today
Why Is Cornflower Called That?
There is a really simple answer to this question. The name comes from the natural habitat of this little wildflower!
In case you hadn’t already guessed, it is named this because it was usually found growing in corn fields.
Although this little beauty is nowadays used more for an attractive garden than allowed to grow freely in the wild, the name remains.
It also has a lot of other nicknames; from Bluebottle to Witch Bells – most of these names are to do with its color, others are harder to fathom!
These days, with mono crops and weedkillers, we have far fewer naturally-occurring wildflowers in our meadows, and the cornflower has become far less common.
They are very happy in a field of corn, being tall enough to get plenty of sunlight, and happy in the soil that is used to grow crops.
The perennial plant would sprout up year after year, happy in its corn field, until we started to grow crops using more chemicals, and destroy field edges.
Nowadays, the humble cornflower will be very happy growing in your garden, or on a patch of verge that has been left to the wild.
What Is The Nickname For Cornflower?
Although the name “cornflower” is cute and self explanatory, it actually has another name based on its uses in the olden days.
“Bachelor’s Button” is another common name for this plant, from the days when every flower had a meaning or a specific purpose.
Men would wear a cornflower in their button holes if they were in love, or planning on courting a woman, which is where this whimsical name comes from!
Flowers were always given different meanings and significances, and cornflower was no exception.
As well as being beautiful and with a lovely, delicate scent, it was considered a symbol of love and hope.
Even these days, the plant is often used in the buttonholes of grooms and best men, carrying on the tradition of seeing this flower as a symbol of love and devotion.
The French know cornflowers as “Bluet” and often wear them as a symbol of remembrance, the same way as poppies are worn.
What Is The Cornflower Myth?
It probably won’t surprise you to know that there are lots of myths and legends that surround this plant, as they do for so many of our other native plants.
One myth is that, if a young man is wearing a cornflower which fades fast, it means that his love is not returned.
Another myth is that the color of the plant comes from the sky – seeing that the earth was looking a little bare, it sent down pieces of itself to brighten the hedgerows.
In ancient Egypt, cornflowers were considered a symbol of fertility, because they grew so happily alongside cereal crops.
Perhaps the most famous of all the myths, however, features the Greek hero Achilles, who was wounded in the ankle by a poison arrow.
The only thing he found that could heal the wound was – yes, you’ve guessed it – the cornflower plant!
Although cornflowers are not popular with farmers – not only do they compete with crops for space, nutrients and light – the symbolism of the plant may just see it endure the threat of extinction.
To learn a little more about the myths and legends of our beloved plant, have a read of this fascinating article.
What Does A Cornflower Gift Mean?
Although you may decide to give someone a cornflower simply because they like the plant, or the color, there is actually more hidden significance than that!
In old folk lore and the language of flowers, cornflowers represent love and romance. They were often worn by men who were courting, and are often still used today in wedding bouquets.
The French wear cornflowers in the same way that Brits wear poppies – to remember the great wars and everyone who was lost.
The ancient Egyptians saw the cornflower’s color and shape as very close to the blue lotus, a fertility symbol, and its habits of growing alongside crops strengthened this belief.
Cornflower gifts can be something as simple as loving the color, or being fond of this pretty, tenacious little plant…
…But, if you are thinking of giving someone a cornflower as a gift, make sure that you are sure you want to give them the hint of romance and fertility it suggests!
Where Does The Term Cornflower Blue Come From?
Before the days of all the exotic flowers we know and love today, a flower as bright and beautiful as the cornflower were actually pretty rare.
The English countryside – like our clothes and our diet – was actually pretty bland and boring! Mud, crops and turnips were the name of the game, and life was more about survival than beauty.
Seeing a flower as eye catching as this plant out and about would have been a truly amazing sight, and as such it has given its name to a color we still use today.
The plant is striking enough to have its name used to describe some really precious things – the most valuable sapphires are known as “cornflower blue!”
Cornflowers were so valued and sought after that they were even found in the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt.
If you are interested in gems as well as gardening, check out this video showing you exactly what a cornflower blue sapphire looks like:
As you can see, this plant – as well as being a lovely little flower to see out and about – has a long and rich history, like so many of our native plants.
The next time you spot a cornflower, I hope you will remember some of the things you have read today and remember the origins of this gorgeous plant.