Plant of the Week: Love-Lies-Bleeding, the Hopeless

File:3836 - Amaranthus caudatus (Zieramaranth).JPG - Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Creative Commons licensed Google Images

This will be one of the articles in which I cover a plant I aspire to know more about rather than one I already have personal experience with. Amaranthus Caudatus, Love-Lies-Bleeding, is an annual flowering plant in the amaranth family. This isn’t the interesting part of the plant, of course, but a little trivia never hurt anyone (I think).

The thing that sets Love-Lies-Bleeding apart from other plants, aside from its cool ass name, is the symbolism behind it. First, let’s get the boring symbolism out of the way: in religious contexts, it represents the crucifixion of Jesus. Cool. We have an astounding number of plants that represent that, so it’s nothing new. It’s the same as another flower representing happiness or love or something. Too many!

A secondary meaning is hopeless love, which is still less interesting than the meaning I want to cover but perfectly melodramatic enough to be worth mentioning. I’ll leave that to someone else to praise the plant for. Something something “imagine sending this to someone you pine for” something something yada yada.

The real fun comes from the Victorians, whom I despise. This unfortunate era of history does come with one shining pearl, which is their amazing, in-depth flower symbolism. While modern florists want to give every plant and its uncle some mundane, sugary meaning, the Victorians straight-up used flowers to communicate secret messages, and they were delightfully dramatic about it.

Love-Lies-Bleeding represents hopelessness.

Oh. Hell. Yes!

Let’s face it: everything is on fire right now (literally, in some places). Some of us don’t want empty messages of hope or love or whatever cartoon nonsense you can come up with. Words without action are useless, and actions that do nothing doubly so. Everything sucks and it likely won’t get good. Better, but not good. Never good. Ever. That’s why I love this flower from the bottom of my cold, hopeless millennial heart. The symbolism doesn’t pull any punches. This is love that has been killed. Its love lies bleeding. The corpse of the sender’s love is still fresh, still wounded, still warm enough to prove that, at some point recently, it was alive. Alive and beautiful. Not anymore. It’s dead. It’s been killed. Just like the hope of many of us. We won’t afford houses, we won’t stop tyranny, we won’t ever have the future that was promised to us. We’re waiting for Rome to burn and nothing more. Come next Spring, I will be planting the seeds that I bought specifically for this symbolism. My home and my garden will look lovely, but to those with an eye that knows what to look for, the real message will be loud and clear: there is no hope here. It lies bleeding.

What I love almost as much as the meaning of Love-Lies-Bleeding is that the symbolism likely comes from the color and shape of the plant, which to a creative, wonderfully morbid mind hundreds of years ago, looked a bit like bloody entrails spewing out. You won’t be getting any of that from any ol’ tulip! (Side note: I adore tulips and there should be a field of them outside my house).

I will hopefully be covering more flowers like Love-Lies-Bleeding, as well as growing them. The best thing the Victorians ever did was give us an expansive vocabulary of flowers and herbs that convey the full spectrum of human emotion, not just the happy parts.

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