VI: Carnation

How Oscar Wilde's carnation almost went extinct.

sextidi, the 16th of Prairial, Year CCXXXI
Dyed carnations. Photo by Natasha / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is sextidi, the 16th of Prairial, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate l'œillet, one of the planet's showier common perennial flowers.

While carnations are certainly capable of the full range of warm-toned colors (and whites), the name comes from their mastery of the peachy tan (European) flesh tone that was (falsely) attributed to Jesus, therefore the name referencing the full blooms as the promise of God made flesh. Or the name refers to the Roman practice of including carnations in their rather botanical crowns (coronas), which was then tweaked and back-explained through the lens of a church always seeking out a way to legitimize itself in nature and therefore win over the pagans. Either way, people certainly thought highly of this flower.

The carnation has symbolized many, many things over the years. It may even be the single-most symbolic flower ever, thanks to its absolute dominance in Victorian England, the source of so much "language of flowers" stuff. A red one says love, but a pink one says less-romantic love, and a yellow one says I want to break up with you. Be careful with your carnations!

But nothing tops the carnation that can't be grown in nature, the inimitable green carnation. Since it's Pride season, this is a great time to look into how this dyed flower became a notorious symbol of homosexuality, and how the association almost caused an extinction.