Cornflower: Symbol of Hope

Why was the Cornflower Chosen as a Symbol for the ALS Society?

The Cornflower (Centaurea cyanis) is a native annual/ biennial plant from Mediterranean Europe. Representing positive hope for the future, the Cornflower is a humble reminder of nature’s simple beauty and the fullness of life’s cycle. The Blue Cornflower is to ALS what the Daffodil is to Cancer….they are the Flower of Hope for both diseases. The Blue Cornflower is the national flower of hope for ALS/MND.

The Blue Cornflower plant is a very courageous plant, being able to stand up all the elements of nature (something many other plants cannot do) and the flower, with its star-like blossoms of brilliant blue, is one of our most striking wild-flowers. When you relate this to people with this disease, you can see that they have to also show courage, something that is not always easy, and strength of character to cope with the devastating changes that occur to the muscles in their bodies.

The Blue Cornflower was chosen to symbolize ALS, as it is a hardy wild flower despite its fragile appearance. As the Blue Cornflower is planted, awareness of ALS grows along with it across the country.

The Latin name, Cyanus, was given to the Cornflower as it was the goddess Flora’s (Cyanus) favourite. The name of the genus is derived from the Centaur, Chiron, who taught mankind the healing virtue of herbs.

In the wild condition, it is fairly common in cultivated fields and by roadsides. The stems are 1 to 3 feet high, tough and wiry, slender, furrowed and branched, somewhat angular and covered with a loose cottony down. The leaves, very narrow and long, are arranged alternately on the somewhat dull and gray appearance. The lower leaves are much broader and often have a roughly-toothed outline. The flowers grow solitary, and of necessity upon long stalks to raise them among the corn. The bracts enclosing the hard head of the flower are numerous, with tightly overlapping scales, each bordered by a fringe of brown teeth. The inner disk florets are small and numerous, of a pale purplish rose colour. The bright blue ray florets, that form the conspicuous part of the flower, are large, widely spread, and much cut into.

The flowers are used in modern herbal medicine, as they are considered to have tonic, stimulating properties, with action similar to that of Blessed Thistle. A water distilled from Cornflower petals was formerly in repute as a remedy for weak eyes. The famous French eyewash, ‘Eau de Casselunettes’, used to be made from them. The powder of the dried leaves has been used to treat those that are bruised by a fall of have broken a vein inwardly. The seeds or leaves taken in wine is are good for treating infectious diseases, and are very good in pestilential fevers. The expressed juice of the petals makes a good blue ink; if expressed and mixed with alum-water, it may be used for water-colour painting. It dyes linen a beautiful blue, but the colour is not permanent. The dried petals are used by perfumeries for giving colour to pot-pourri.

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