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Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), or red Pimpernel a native plant of Europe that has been naturalized in various parts of the world including North America, is considered a weed. The annual plant bears red or blue flowers. The Scarlet pimpernel is known by several other names including red chickweed, shepherd’s weather glass, poorman’s barometer, shepherd’s clock, and poor man’s weather-glass.

This low-growing plant is widespread in the United Kingdom, mostly seen along the coasts of Ireland and Scotland. The scientific scarlet pimpernel flower meaning translates to the adornment of the fields. That’s extremely appropriate for this creeping flowering plant for its beautiful, tiny flowers. Though considered an invasive species, Scarlet pimpernel, the ground-hugging plant with bright flowers, is not-so-commonly seen. It mainly grows on sand dunes, lands that are devoid of other vegetative growth, and waste open ground, coastal cliffs, and roadside areas.

Although the name Scarlet pimpernel suggests red flowers, it blooms in azure blue, shades of pink, white, orange. The ideal growing season is from spring to autumn during the months of May to October. The flowers bloom on longish stalks with leaves that are slightly oval in shape with tapered ends. The stems of this ground-hugging plant can spread up to 12 inches (30cm) in spring and summer making them cover large portions of garden areas. This wild growing plant species with a creeping habit can damage and hinder the growth of other small and low-growing plants. In winter it may grow upright with rosette leaves and stems standing straight.

These small flowers have five petals that open in the morning at around 8 am and close in the afternoon or when the weather is dull. That earned it the name of shepherd’s clock. Correctly called, the shepherd’s weather glass, the Scarlet pimpernel flower meaning holds good as the flowers open only while the sun is bright. With a slightly overcast sky or in the evenings the petals close. That gives an indication of the weather.

Barring the deserts, Scarlet pimpernel grows throughout California at a height of up to 3300 feet (1000 m). This flowering plant can also be seen close to water bodies, beaches, agricultural lands, vineyards, pastures, gardens, and ornamental landscape beds. Considered to be toxic for humans and livestock, it poses a threat of poisoning if consumed. The toxicity level of Scarlet pimpernel’s bitter leaves depends on the rainfall levels in summer. Although rare, these bright-colored flowers can also be spotted on urban sites, between paving slabs and gardens. Scarlet pimpernel grows well in cultivated soil, sandy patches, and fertile meadows alongside rivers.

Scarlet pimpernel has tiny round fruits that capsule the oval or round seeds. The fruits are as small as 1/10 of an inch and suspend from the downward curved green stalks. When the time comes, a lid-like feature on top of each capsule opens to release multiple seeds. The seeds are black or brown and are covered with wart-like projections.

Gardeners who love the vibrant shades of these wayside flowers use them to add a touch of color to their rock gardens, flower bed borders. Scarlet pimpernels make a good edging for paved paths. They can be grown in pots on a sunny porch or a windowsill. If the plant receives enough sunlight, it will continue to flower even in fall through winter.

Etymology

Anagallis, the genus to which Scarlet pimpernel belongs, gets its name from a Greek word that means ‘to delight again’. The Scarlet pimpernel flower meaning is thus connected to the reopening of pretty, colorful flowers every day as the sun shines. Some people believe the genus Anagallis to be closely connected to Lysimachia. Lysimachia, consisting of 193 species of flowering plants, is classified as the family Primulaceae, to which primrose belongs. The name pimpernel originates from the Middle English pympernele which is again derived from Middle French pimprenelle and Old French piprenelle. The main origin is connected to Vulgar Latin piperīnella.

How does the flower look?

The Scarlet pimpernel is no showy, well-appreciated flower in a flower bouquet. These tiny flowers can be noticed for their pretty colors. Scarlet pimpernels have five petals. Each petal is fringed with numerous tiny hair. The leaves are green, oval with tapered ends, and are unstalked. They are set on trailing stems that grow to about twelve inches.

What do Scarlet pimpernel flowers symbolize?

The Scarlet pimpernel is just another pretty wildflower growing in the countryside to add to nature’s beauty. Scarlet pimpernel flower meaning comes from a Greek word meaning amusing. Looking at these tiny, nodding, flowers sprawled across pastures and gardens, blooming on long stems explain their name meaning well.

In English literature, the iconic Scarlet pimpernel flower is connected to humbleness, modesty, and restrain, because of its unassuming nature. Owing to the brave hero of Orczy’s novel with the same name, Scarlet pimpernel flower meaning is also related to someone who is daring, mysterious, and evasive.

What do various colors of Scarlet pimpernel mean?

The most common colors of Scarlet pimpernel are red and blue, but these flowers can be seen in a wide variety of other colors. Scarlet pimpernel range from bright red to pastel shades of pink and white. The blue flowers are called azure, deep peach is called carnea, the lilac variety is lilacina, and the white is pallida.

Although traditionally different shades of Scarlet pimpernel flowers do not have independent meanings, they can be connected to what these colors symbolize.

Red Scarlet Pimpernel:

The red shade of the flower looks romantic, fiery, and bold. Although it is a small wildflower, when several flowers bloom together it creates an attractive look, symbolizing admiration.

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Blue Scarlet Pimpernel:

The azure Scarlet pimpernel flower meaning is related to infinity, inspiration, and, unreachable. How the flower grows in the wilderness without any special care is indeed inspiring. Spreading along open areas of Mediterranean countries, to North America and beyond, this little blue flower stands for a sense of infinity and endurance.

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White Scarlet Pimpernel

White Scarlet pimpernel is not one of the most widespread varieties. Like most flowers, the meaning of white is tied to innocence and purity. Blooming in the meadows, nodding in the breeze, the small white flowers stand for elegance and innocence.

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Purple Scarlet Pimpernel

The purple scarlet pimpernel is a symbol of dignity, admiration, and calmness. Since the color purple is a balanced blend of warm red and cool blue, the purple flowers are connected to harmony.

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Orange Scarlet Pimpernel

Bright, joyful, and invigorating, orange shades of this flower symbolize warmth and fervor. Looking at bright blooming patches of orange Scarlet pimpernel gives a sense of happiness and enthusiasm.

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Interesting facts about Scarlet pimpernel flowers

  • Scarlet Pimpernel was used for many uncertain purposes in old herbal medicine way back in the 16th century. It was used for cosmetic use as an ingredient in skin cream.
  • This flower was also used for medicinal purposes. One of the uses was to make potions for treating people when they were bitten by mad dogs.
  • Same as the name of the flowering plant there is a famous French romantic novel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. It was produced as a play in 1903 and also published as a book in 1905.
  • The name of this wildflower was popularized by the novel “Scarlet Pimpernel”. In it, the hero, Sir Percy Blakeney, used this wayside flower as a symbol when he rescued French aristocrats from the Reign of Terror.
  • Considered an invasive plant variety, several mechanical and natural methods are used to control and stop the spread of this weed.
  • The Scarlet pimpernel, which was once considered a widespread weed in the cornfields in the United Kingdom is now in decline.
  • Scarlet pimpernel contains certain chemicals that are believed to work against some fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
  • Even when there are serious concerns related to the poisonous nature of Scarlet pimpernel, certain medicines are made from the parts growing above the soil.
  • It is used for treating herpes, depression, kidney dysfunction, joint pains, liver disorder. It is also used as a supportive treatment for certain kinds of cancer.
  • This plant is not safe for pregnant women. It may have negative effects on human sperm and that’s bad for people who expect to father children.
  • People use it to treat itchiness, healing wounds, and directly on painful joints. This plant should not be used without proper prescription as it may be unsafe.
  • Some European herbalists opine that the red-flowered plants are good for men, and the blue-petalled plants are better suited for women.

Can you gift Scarlet pimpernel?

The Scarlet pimpernel is no fancy flower for gifting. It is a weed that looks similar to chickweed plants. This petite wildflower cannot be used as a cut flower, filler, or in bouquets like common garden-grown flowers. These flowers are easy to spot when they are blooming due to their bright orange, red, and blue hues. For some people Scarlet pimpernel is nothing but an invasive variety of weed. For others, this variety of plant is great for adding colors to patches in their garden.