THE ALMOND FLOWER
The flowering almond has always stood as a symbol of hope. The hope, in dreams of a happier hour That alights upon misery’s brow Springs out of a silvery almond flower That blooms on a leafless bough.
The almond was introduced into England, probably by the Romans, but was not cultivated in England before 1562. The tree has always been a favourite, and in Shakespeare's time almond trees were abundant in the orchards. In literature, references can be found aplenty especially in the Elizabethan times. Spenser alludes to it in the Fairy Queen:
'Like to an Almond tree ymounted hye, On top of greene Selinis all alone, With blossoms brave bedecked daintly; Whose tender locks do tremble every one At everie little breath that under Heaven is blowne.' Shakespeare mentions it in Troilus and Cressida: - 'The parrot will not do more for an Almond'. 'An Almond for a parrot' was an old simile in the Shakespearean times for the height of temptation.
Almond appears in early English texts seems as Almande as in the Romaunt of the Rose. Etymologically this form is adapted from the French amande, derived from the late Latin amandela, which is in turn a form of the Greek amygdalus.
The almond has biblical references. It occurs in the Scripture as one of the best fruit trees of the land of Canaan. The beauty of the almond blossom and fruit has given rise to sacred motifs. The Hebrew name for almond is shakad, which means 'hasty awakening,' beseeming the unique nature of this tree, whose exotic flowers appearing in Palestine in January, is supposed have initiated the process of Creation. In the Jewish harvest festival, the Feast of Tabernacles the fruit of almond was enshrined for the decoration of the golden candlestick employed in the tabernacle. The rod of Aaron was an Almond twig. Even in the modern festivities, the Jews still carry rods of Almond blossom to the synagogues.
The classical mythology mentions almond. Servius relates the Greek fable where Phyllis being deserted by her lover Demaphoon sadly pined away to death and as an eternal compensation for her abandonment was transformed into a almond tree. It was too late when Demophoon finally returned, and when he saw the leafless, flowerless and forlorn tree, overcome with remorse he embraced it in his arms, whereupon it burst forth into happy bloom thereby becoming an emblem of true love inextinguishable by death. This is probably the reason why the almond blossom is always taken to be the eternal symbol of hope as the poet says: ‘ Hope springs eternal in the human breast; man never is, but always to be blest.’ (Alexander Pope)
Interestingly, almond has other attributes as well. It is believed to be an excellent remedy for intoxication and bitter almonds are eaten during meal times often to mitigate the effects of liquor consumed at this time. The ‘nuts’ of almond are used to extract oil, which is an important ingredient in the flavoring of soaps and cosmetics. Medicinally it is used as a demulcent. The flowering almonds are pinkish sometimes-white varieties native to central Asia.
The common almond indicates indiscretion and often stupidity. Almond of the laurel variety is used to suggest perfidious behavior.
In dream language, to dream of almonds suggests a journey. If the almonds are sweet ones, then the journey is slated to be a prosperous one. However to dream of bitter almonds suggests just the opposite that is the journey would be ill starred.
Scientifically, the Almond belongs to the same group of plants, as the rose, plum, cherry and peach, being a member of the tribe Prunae, and is especially well known for its nut like edible seed of its drupe fruit. Almonds are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, and Family Rosaceae.
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