Field of Science

Botany for St. Valentine's Day

Plants are named after just about everything and everybody, but it seems none are named after St. Valentine. Perhaps that’s because there were 14 martyrs named Valentine, and not only were they martyrs, but then they were deleted from the Catholic calendar in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. Is this why Valentine’s day is on Feb. 14th? Perhaps plants are not thought to have valor? You’d think part of the floral giving tradition would herald to the beheading of at least one of the Valentinian martyrs, but no. In terms of specific epithets there are lots of cordata (heart-shaped), cordifolia (with heart-shaped leaves), and cordiformis (heart-shaped), but doubtful that had anything to do with the valentine heart motif. So here’s the best a poor old botanist can do for Valentine’s day, on short notice, a great big old heart-shaped bract of the genus Anthurium, a member of the aroid family where a big attractive, modified leaf, a spathe, is often associated with a very phallic spike of rather insignificant little flowers. If you look closely at the spike (spadix) you can quite easily see the individual flowers.


Candela said...

Hi! I don't know anything about plants. But I just received one like the one in the picture of this post and would like to know the name. Thank you!

The Phytophactor said...

Dear Candela, as the article stated, it is an Anthurium.