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  • Writer's pictureBetty Girardeau

The unhappy youth

Another early harbinger of spring is the crocus. At least in my yard, the blooms don't last very long. Unlike daffodils, which come into bloom about the same time, I have never seen crocus as a cut flower. Compared to the over 25,000 named cultivars of daffodils, there are only 30 for crocus. How sad. The mythology behind the story of Crocus is pretty sad, too. One story has it that the mortal Crocus was unhappy with his love affair with the nymph Smilax. So the gods took pity on him and turned him into a flower to relieve his grief while they turned Smilax into a thorny vine, perhaps showing further that Crocus was a rejected lover. A more famous version, equally sad, has the mortal youth Crocus being the lover of the Messenger God Hermes. The legend has the two undertaking athletic pursuits during which a discus thrown by Hermes hits Crocus in the head, killing him. Grief stricken, Hermes transforms his dead lover into a flower and three drops of blood that had fallen from the head of Crocus became the stigmata of the flower. Whichever myth you prefer, the story is still a sad one. Yet the flower itself isn't. It naturalizes easily, comes in a rainbow of Easter egg like colors, and easily survives late snows and frost. The macro view here of one flower petal shows a bit of its detailed artistry. The mortal Crocus may have been unhappy, but I think his namesake is pretty cute and perky.

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