Pyrrha's Roman

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[the real Medusa!]

plants from mythology

[Daphne and laurel] This picture shows a young straggly Daphne, which will have beautiful pink flowers later in the year, just to the right of a bay laurel tree which has been encouraged to grow in a ball on a tall stem.

The reason I wanted these two plants close together is because in his 'Metamorphoses' the Roman poet Ovid tells the story of how the nymph Daphne was changed into a laurel tree to escape the unwelcome advances of the god Apollo. He caught her just as she was changing shape and vowed to make her his special tree. That is why Roman generals and winners of sports awards were crowned with laurel.

Hebe, at the base of the laurel, was the daughter of Jupiter and Juno, and she poured nectar for the gods on Mount Olympus.

[Golden Fleece]

This bright crocosmia rejoices in the name 'Golden Fleece' - a worthy prize for Jason and his Argonauts to win!

A larger crocosmia, with dark red flowers, is called 'Lucifer' the Bringer of Light who was the morning star.


Two different varieties of myrtle, the plant sacred to Venus, the goddess of Love.


The feathery foliage of fennel is supported on thick stalks, which were made into thyrsoi and carried by the followers of Bacchus the god of wine, in their revelries.


This is a thyrsus I have made from a stalk of fennel with ivy wound round it and a pine cone on the top. When the revellers tapped this on the ground, springs of wine, milk and honey would appear!

These pictures on Greek vases show how Greek artists depicted worshippers with their thyrsoi.


Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, was the messenger of the goddess Juno. She is usually represented as a gentle goddess, but she causes some problems at her mistress's command for the Trojans in Virgil's 'Aeneid'.

This delicate lilac iris has pinks in the background - the variety 'Doris' possibly named after a sea-nymph.

Hyacinthus was a beautiful youth, loved by the god Apollo. When he died in an accident, Apollo decreed
'A new flower you shall be, with letters marked to imitate my sobs'
and he wrote the letters A I on each petal, the Greek word describing a moan of grief.

I am indebted to a correspondent in Australia who has pointed out that these markings can be found on a variety of delphinium, not a hyacinth!

Roman plants                article on Roman gardening