Cyclamen (cyclamen) - diffidence, timid hope

“Thou Cyclamen of crumpled horn

Toss not they head aside;

Repose it where the loves were born

In that warm dell abide.

Whatever flowers, on mountain, field,

Or garden, may arise,

Thine only that pure odor yield

Which never can suffice.

Emblem of her I’ve loved so long,

Go, carry her this little song.”

-Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864)

Cyclamen hangs down its head as if it’s too shy to appear, but blooms beautifully at any time of year (depending on the species) nevertheless- reminiscent of a timid suitor with a most becoming blush. Its name is Greek, and related to cyclos, ‘circle’, because of the round, potato-like tuber it hides underground.

It used to be believed that the cyclamen had strong effects on women. I paraphrase the 16th-century herbalist John Gerard wrote that the root has a salutary effect on women during “their confinement” -meaning their menses. He grew the flowers in his garden, but fenced them in very carefully lest any pregnant woman accidentally step over them and cause a miscarriage. Those who are expecting, according to this superstition, should not touch or even go near the plant.

The plant was also used often in love potions, and protective spells;

“St. John’s Wort and fresh Cyclamen she in her chamber kept,

From the power of evil angels to guard him while he slept”

Cyclamen is also commonly known as sow’s bread, referring to its use as pigfeed in regions where it grows wild. Sadly the horticultural market has robbed many wild cyclamen from their fields, causing several species to become endangered.

“I come to visit thee agen,

My little flowerless cyclamen;

To touch the hand, almost to press,

That cheer’d thee in thy loneliness.

What could thy careful guardian find

Of thee in form, of me in mind,

What is there in us rich or rare,

To make us claim a moment’s care?

Unworthy to be so carest,

We are but withering leaves at best.”

-Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864)

(written and illustrated by Mira Gryseels)