Flowers of Early Spring

by Rachel Creager Ireland

The earliest flowers come before it’s really even spring, and today’s luscious blue bloom is usually the first I see in the year, on those precious early warm days which the heart knows as spring, though the mind of a seasoned Kansan resists belief. This sweet little flower probably originated in the mountains of the Caucasus and northern Iran, and traveled those many miles from Eurasia to Britain, where it was recorded in 1825 or 1826. But our little friend did not cease her travels there; she crossed the Atlantic ocean to North America, where she is now widespread; as well as further east through Asia, including Japan, and New Zealand.

She is often said to be good for coughs and asthma, eyesight, dysmenhorrea, and skin irritations, as well as high in vitamin C and antioxidants, though bitter flavor renders her unpopular as a food.

This is one of the tiniest flowers humans can see unaided, easy to overlook but equally easy to spot when one chooses to see. Rachel has fond memories of seeing this blue eye winking up at her from the back yard of her Kansas home in the 1970s, though she never knew the flower’s name until many years later.

And what is the name? I’ll leave you to discover it for yourself. I’ll give a hint: a ship was named after our flower du jour, and would have sailed in 1620 with another floral ship, the Mayflower. But fate called the ship back to port, leaving the Mayflower to make her famous voyage to the New World alone. A few sprigs of this flower are drying in a flower press today, and will be ready in two weeks to be sent to whomever first reveals their name. When you discover it, you’ll know why this flower holds a special place in the heart of myself, yours truly, Veronica Speedwell.