Every festival, every occasion, every special moment in both local and global arena is associated with some plant or another. Christmas is beckoned with Norfolk pines and poinsettias. Valentine’s Day make roses special. The armistice day is almost synonymous with the red poppy flowers. The Vishu festival honours the Indian laburnum (cassia fistula – sarakonrai). Flowers of milkweed (erukkam chedi), seeds of rosary pea (kundumani), palm fronds are all ubiquitous religious symbols. And then there are the star trees (nakshatra vrikshas), sacred trees (sthala vrikshas) and wishing trees (kalpa vrikshas).
So it is with the season of lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday and culminates in Good Friday and Easter, Throughout the world, this time of the year, brings to memory certain plants that are special to every plant lover especially for those who venerate the season of lent. Plants like olives, figs, date palms, passion flowers and Easter lilies are much talked about during this time because of their ability to symbolize a variety of life lessons like faith, hope, love, trust, forgiveness, humility, patience, endurance, etc.
Palm Tree: The Biblical land is replete with palm trees. These are actually the date palms with commercial and medicinal significance. Palm trees in the Bible signify abundance, prosperity, rest, wealth, justice and righteousness. The palm tree is an evergreen, upright, drought-resistant species with a staff, graceful foliage. These trees serve as an oasis, a place of refreshment and rest for a weary traveler in the wilderness of the desert. Therefore palm trees symbolize refreshing divine help at times of distress, dryness and despondency. The palm trees were significant during Biblical times that King Solomon carved the walls of the temple with the figures of palm trees. The tree yields abundant date fruits which are rich in dietary fibre, anti-oxidants, Vitamin A, Iron, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium. The leaves are used for making roofs, fences, mats, baskets and bags.
Olive Tree: Israel is a land of olives. Olive is a symbol of peace, love, fertility, royalty, purity, victory and abundance. Legend has it that just before the betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus went into a garden called Gethsemane, which was at the foot of Mount Olives. This garden had a good number of olive trees and even today few hoary trees can be seen inside this garden with an gnarled trunk of unusual girth. The olive trees send a strong message during this season of lent that whatever the problem is, be it pain, distress, disappointments, false accusations, betrayal by a friend for selfish motives and evil in return for good, like the olive we can withstand the perils of evil and demonstrate high productivity.
Passion flowers and Easter lilies are the most significant flowers of this season and are found blooming profusely around February, March and April. Though it is mostly in shades of purple, few horticultural varieties are red and pink in color. The wild species grows as a gregarious weed in wastelands and its fruits are much relished by birds.
The purple flowers are very popular with the Christians especially during the season of lent because the intricate details in the purple flowers signal the vital events that took place during the crucifixion of Jesus – color symbolizes the purple robe that Jesus was given as a symbol of mockery, ten sepals and petals refer to the ten loyal disciples of Christ excluding Peter who denied and Judas who betrayed, the slender filaments in the corona look like the crown of thorns, five wounds of Christ, the apical trepid style resembles the three nails that pierced the hands and legs, red spots signify the blood drops, the fibrous tendrils look like the whip that was used to scourge and the lobed leaves resemble the soldier’s spear that pierced. Easter lilies are the most popular flowers used for floral decorations in Churches during Easter.