If there’s one thing that the success of endless summer superhero movies has taught us, it’s that people love a convoluted origin story. Step forward the Brodiaea, AKA cluster-lilies. If you head to the Brodiaea Wikipedia page, you’ll find three paragraphs about its discovery and naming that I’ve read through four times and still can’t follow. Even the normally staid tone of Wikipedia describes the origin of the name as ‘tangled’ (plant-centric pun intended? Probably not). All you really need to know though is that their discovery harks back to a time (the late 18th/early 19th century) when men weren’t just men, they were men with towering names like Archibald – and these Archibalds, despite being really, really into flowers would set forth, straight-faced, on ‘expeditions’. 

Basically a botanist named Archibald Menzies discovered the Brodiaea on an expedition to the Strait of Georgia in 1792, but for some reason didn’t give it a name. What follows is a load of bickering amongst botanists as they fall over themselves to name it after one of their mates.

The plant itself is a sort of refined take on your everyday lily – it’s not commonly known as the elegant cluster-lily for nothing. They’re herbaceous perennials that grow from corms (type of bulbs essentially), with those classic bare stems offering a serene, superior silhouette – before unfurling into a cluster of tepals ranging from blue to purple in colour.

There’s no specific symbolism attached to the Brodiaea, but lillies in general are of course often associated with funerals and 30th wedding anniversaries (there’s a terrible joke somewhere in that particular pairing…). They were also utterly revered by the Ancient Greeks - which I guess is of note given they seem to have devoted a hell of a lot of thought to flowers in general. Lilies though were thought to be so beautiful that they could only have been borne from the milk of Hera herself (ew).

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