I am currently down in the Lake District and Nara (my 18 month little girl) and I have just spent a very enjoyable afternoon exploring the garden here. As she presented me with a daisy it struck me how overlooked these beautiful little flowers are. Thought I'd do a bit of research and find out more about the humble daisy....
The daisy is a perennial plant and flowers for much of the year; this is reflected in its Latin name Bellis perennis, meaning 'pretty' and 'everlasting'. The word daisy derives from the Anglo Saxon 'daeges eage' meaning 'day's eye'; a fitting metaphor as the flower opens when the sun rises and closes when it sets.
The medicinal properties of the daisy have been recognised for centuries and in ancient Rome the surgeons who accompanied Roman legions into battle would order their slaves to collect daisies. The juice was extracted and used to soak bandages in order to help wounds to heal more effectively.
By the middle ages documents show that the roots as well as the leaves were being used as a treatment. People believed that they could be used to remove blood from wounds and this led to one of the daisy's alternative names 'bruisewort'. Over the years the plant has been used to treat respiratory complaints, boils, acne, arthritic symptoms, eye conditions, sprains, back aches, period pains, varicose veins, tendon and bone injuries.... the list goes on, so if you're feeling under the weather why not boil up a daisy and see if it helps?
Daisies have long been associated with childhood and innocence, probably due to children making simple chains from them and little girls playing 'he loves me- he loves me not' whilst pulling off the petals. In Scotland they were historically called 'bairnwort' reflecting this.
The daisy is frequently mentioned in western literature; in fact it is probably second only to the rose in terms of its symbolic use. The daisy was Chaucer's favourite flower and Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats, Burns, Goethe, Ben Jonson and Shelley all include it in their works too. The meaning they attach it varies, but it is often used to soften the harshness of death.
There are a whole host of other stories associated with the daisy; medieval knights wore them as a symbol of their fidelity, some people believed they sprung from the tears of Mary Magdalene and daisy chains were worn to guard against kidnapping by fairies (apparently where daisies manifest a red rim around the edges this is because the fairies have been there all night dancing so hard their feet bleed!)
So next time you are out for a walk and see a daisy, perhaps it is worth marvelling just a little more at all this modest little flower has achieved.