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The Otherworldly Flower Called the Snapdragon

By Andrew Burgon /
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March 31, 2014

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Image Credit: De-okin / Wikipedia

Image Credit: De-okin / Wikipedia

The Snapdragon is a Showy Flower Popular for Both Cut Floral Arrangements and Garden Displays

What child hasn’t been enchanted by the snapdragon’s easy charm?  How many of us have gently squeezed the sides of one to see the jaws of a dragon’s head open and close? While many of us are familiar with the flower what is not well known are the supernatural powers humankind has attributed to them over the centuries.

Snapdragon’s Encountered While Leisurely Strolling Through the Garden

With a fine lunch over and the guests content it was time for a leisurely walk around the garden. A little girl stood waiting patiently yet eagerly for her grandfather. For her a walk through the garden was a magical and transporting experience. It was a world of romanticism that caused her on more than one occasion to run to her grandfather and report that Marcus Aurelius was rising up from the garden or the Queen of the Amazons had appeared. When she spotted her grandfather she gave him a cute smile complimented by wide inviting eyes and held out her hand. Ellen knew that a journey through the garden was even more enjoyable with the right company. Her grandfather took her hand and they set off admiring the flowers around the garden.

She enjoyed listening to her grandfather talk about the flowers. The care they needed in which to grow. How flowers could be grouped together, combined with other flowers and their use to create contrasts in the garden. Their origin and histories were also welcome details. As with all children, Snapdragons held a special fascination with Ellen. Picking one of the flowers she held it in her hand and made the flowery jaw open and close. She gave her grandfather a big smile as he squatted beside her. “Grandpa, tell me about the snapdragon again.”

Thomas Jefferson immediately thought of the snapdragons blooming at Shadwell, his childhood home. He took the snapdragon from his granddaughter and held it up.

“Their botanical name is Antirrhinum majus. Anti in Greek means ‘like’ and ‘rrhinum’ means ‘snout.’ He lightly tapped her on the nose to emphasize and she smiled. While we think that they look like a dragon the French call them gueule de loup or wolf’s mouth. The Germans and Italians think of it as a lion’s mouth. In Asia, they’re known as rabbit lips.

“We can trace their history as far back as the Roman Empire. We’re not sure where they originally came from but they may be native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. In Spain and Italy they can be found growing wild. In Mediterranean areas it has been cultivated for seed oil and cloth dyes have been made from them. In Russia, snapdragons were believed to boost the body’s energy level and oil was extracted from the seeds and used like butter. They were originally white and purple in color but come in all sorts of colors and sizes now from 6 inches to 4 feet tall.”

Image Credit: Polojoe42 / Wikimedia Commons

Image Credit: Polojoe42 / Wikimedia Commons

“Some people think that these flowers possess supernatural powers.”  He took the snapdragon flower and placed it in his shirt pocket. “Concealing a snapdragon will make you appear gracious and fascinating in the eyes of others.” With that he raised his head trying to look debonair and alluring. She laughed. Taking out the flower he positioned just below his neck. “Descondes, a Greek physician, said that if you wore them around your neck they would protect you. Others believe they could protect you from deceit and curses. If you feel the presence of evil around you hold a snapdragon in your hand till it passes. A long time ago in Germany they thought that a bunch of snapdragons hung near a baby would keep the evil spirits away.””

“In the medieval age, they were thought to be the guardians of European castles and were planted near the gate to ward off the enemy. They were planted around roofs to prevent fire and in front of cottages to protect the occupants from witchcraft.”

“Women would boil them and then use it in the hope that it would keep them beautiful and restore their youth.”

“To be anointed with the oil of a snapdragon would cause you to become famous.” With that he rubbed his finger lightly on the Snapdragon and touched her forehead.” Ellen burst out laughing. “I’m gonna be famous!”

Jefferson slowly stood up and said, “Come, let us see what other treasures lie in the gardens of Monticello.”

Image Credit: Monticello YF12s / Wikimedia Commons

Image Credit: Monticello YF12s / Wikimedia Commons


The History of Snapdragons

When the Flowers Were in Bloom

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