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Cultivated by ancient civilizations as an important food crop and grown commercially in modern times for its beauty, the live-giving amaranthus is the perfect flower to wish someone in the hospital a hardy return to health. With long, draping flowers in deep burgundy, bronze and lovely greens, this bloom is works well in both bouquets and vases and will add a splash of color and a bit of the outdoors to any drab interior. Said to represent immortality and unfading love in the Victorian language of flowers, the amaranthus is emblematic of both the bounty of the harvest and the cyclical nature of life.
Said to have made up over 80% of the diet of the Aztecs, both the grains and the leaves of the amaranthus are edible. A popular food for hummingbirds as well, the amaranthus flower features heavily in the Aztec festical of Panquetzaliztli, where statues were made from the flower. The bright red pigments of the amaranthus were also used by many cultures as a dye and the Red Dye No. 2 in the US is still derived from this source.
The flower is produced at the top of each tall plant, that may reach up to 2 feet in height, and is a feathery plume that droops gracefully downward towards the tip. In many of the red varieties, the stem and leaves that support the deep burgundy flower are also a rich, vermillion color. The green, yellow and bronze varieties have mostly green leaves, though new cultivars are showing vibrant leaf colors that turn a gold or red in the autumn. As the flowers mature, the tiny seeds that become the edible grain begin to form in a papery covering, where they can be collected and cooked, much like quinoa, which shares the same plant family.
The name amaranthus comes from the Greek word, amarantos, which means “unfading.” This might be because of their ability to last up to two weeks as a cut flower in a vase or that they will retain their color if hung upside down and dried, making them great for use in later arrangements or colorful crafts. It sends a message of fortitude and inner strength that hospital guest will find inspiring and encouraging.
Amaranthus is an impressive flower that makes a statement in a tall glass vase. Trailing down the side, this is the perfect stem to add to hardy greens and a few focal flowers like dahlias or sunflowers. On their own or added to others, this flower will bring fortitude with you on any visit to the hospital.