From “he loves me, he loves me not” to “oopsy daisy”, few flowers are more iconic in American culture than the daisy.
In the 600 years since it was first mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the daisy has grown into a staple plant for gardeners, florists, and homeowners all over the world.
But what’s so special about this little flower? From its rich history to its numerous modern varieties, the daisy has rightfully earned its place as one of the most beloved flowers of all time. To fully understand just how powerful this plant can be, travel back in time to when the daisy was first noticed–ancient Egypt.
Ancient Day’s Eye to Modern Daisy
Although Chaucer was the first one to ever write about daisies, they appeared in art long before his classic novel. The first cultural reference to the plant dates back to 3,000 BC in a cave where an ancient Egyptian city once stood. Scientists believe the plants were harvested for medicine and decoration, both healing and adorning the highest members of society like the Pharaoh and his family.
During this time, the flower was actually called a “day’s eye”, since it opened and closed with the rising and the setting of the sun. When the sun was up, the flower opened and let the light in, and when the sun was down, it folded back up to protect itself from losing any precious water. The “day’s eye” continued to be a staple in many civilizations even after the Egyptian empire faded away, acting as an anti-aging hair treatment for the Assyrians and symbolizing divine fertility for the Romans. It is even rumored that King Henry VIII ate daisies towards the end of the life to cure his stomach ulcers!
Over time, as medicine advanced, many westerners turned away from these medicinal practices and started to view the plant more as a decoration. At the same time, as the plant started to gain influence in western English-speaking countries, “day’s eye” slowly morphed into a single word–daisy–that is still used today.
A Flexible Flower
Many varieties of daisies exist, but perhaps the most iconic is the Gerbera daisy. Known for their instantly recognizable shape and myriad colors, you can find Gerbera daisies all over the American plains and in the South. From amber to salmon to violet, these flowers can fit in virtually any color palette, and their connotation of innocence and beauty makes them popular for springtime weddings. These flowers don’t last long indoors, however, making them a gorgeous yet fleeting decoration, housewarming gift, or potted plant.
In second place in the daisy popularity contest is the Shasta daisy. In many ways, these flowers look and feel a lot like their sister variety, but unlike the Gerbera, Shasta daisies are built for endurance in outdoor settings. They are popular for gardens because they attract butterflies, and low-maintenance growing regimens make them easy for any homeowner to plant and maintain.
Culture Stems from the Daisy
Regardless of variety, all daisies have one thing in common–cultural influence. Cliches like “oopsy daisy” and “fresh as a daisy” all stem (pun intended) from this popular flower. Iconic characters like Daisy Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard and Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby are named after the plant. Even little kids know about daisies, often learning about them in school during the springtime and making daisy chains when they play outside!
Clearly, the Egyptians had the right idea in mind when they decorated their holiest people with these beautiful flowers, and although Henry VIII may have been a little off with his use of the plant, he was certainly a trendsetter, too. After a long, rich history, it looks like the daisy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so with a low-maintenance plan of care and several varieties to choose from, it just might be the perfect plant for your garden.