Saffron - "Beware of excess." Because a weak infusion of saffron is very beneficial and exhilarating, but an excessive dose is equally injurious, tending to produce madness.
Saffron Crocus - "Mirth."
Saffron, Meadow - "My happiest days are past."
Sage (garden). - "Esteem." In Buckinghamshire a rural belief ran that, like parsley and rosemary, sage "grows best where the mistress is master," and also that the plant would thrive or decline as the master's business prospered or failed.
Sainfoin (holy hay) - "Agitation." This meaning was given to the shaking sainfoin because the terminal leaf of the plant remains quite still, while the other two, much smaller, shake ceaselessly. There is a beautiful French legend which tells how some sainfoin was found in the manger, and as soon as the Christ child's head touched the plant it put forth pretty red blossoms.
Saint John's Wort - "Animosity" and "superstition." On account of the virtue which this plant was supposed to possess of driving away devils.
Salvia (blue) - "I think of thee."
Salvia (red) - "For ever thine."
Scabious - "Unfortunate love."
Scilla (blue) - "Forgive, and forget."
Scilla (white) - "Sweet innocence."
Scotch Fir - "Elevation."
Sensitive Plant - "Sensibility."
Shamrock - "Lightheartedness."
Snapdragon - "Presumption." The curious name of this plant requires a little explanation. If the sides of the flower are pressed, it opens like a gaping mouth, the stigma representing the tongue. When the fingers are removed, the lips of the corolla "snap" together, creating the name. The single-petal corolla forms a kind of mask, resembling an animal's face.
Snowdrop - "Hope." The signification of hope was given to this "firstling of the year," because it is one of the earliest flowers to blossom and bid us take hope anew after the apparent death of Nature in the winter. It is often referred to as "the fair maid of February," and used to adorn Lady altars at the Feast of the Purification (February 2). Two legends account for its birth. The first is given in Barbauld's lines:
As Flora's breath, by some transforming power, Had changed an icicle into a flower, Its name and hue the scentless plant retains, And winter lingers in its icy chains.
The second asserts that when our first parents were driven forth from the Garden of Eden, Eve was overwhelmed with grief and despair, for the world outside Eden was barren and covered with drifting snow. Then, as Eve knelt weeping upon the whitened ground, the Angel Gabriel came to her, and, bidding her dry her tears, caught one of the falling snowflakes in his hand, and, lo! it was transformed into a pure white flower, and given to Eve as the symbol of hope renewed. Another version of this story is that the snowdrops were the transformed tears of our penitent mother.
Sorrel - "Affection."
Sorrel (wild) - "Wit, ill-timed."
Southern Wood - "Jest," "bantering." Often called "lad's love."
Spanish Jasmine - "Luxury," "unmaidenli-ness."
Speedwell - "Female fidelity."
Speedwell (germander) - "Facility."
Speedwell (spiked) - "Semblance."
Spiked Willow Herb - "Pretension."
Stephanotis - "You boast too much."
Stock (Ten-week) - "Promptness." Because it blossoms within ten weeks of sowing.
Stonecrop - "Tranquillity." The ancients regarded stonecrop as a cure for hydrophobia.
Strawberry Blossoms - "Foresight."
Sundew - "Early beauty."
Sunflower (dwarf) - "Adoration." Clytie dying of unrequited love was changed by Apollo into a sunflower, which ever turns to the sun.
Sunflower (tall) - "Haughtiness."
Sweetbriar - "Simplicity." Sweetbriar (eglantine) - "I wound to heal." Sweetbriar (yellow) - "Decrease of love." Sweet Sultan - "Felicity."
Sweet Sultan (purple) - "Dignity."
Sweet William - "Gallantry."
Syringa - "Memory," also "fraternal love."
Teasel - "Misanthropy." A quaint old country name for this plant is "Venus's basin," because the hollows formed by the united bases of the leaves around the stem retain water a long time, which water was supposed to remove warts and freckles and greatly improve the complexion.
Thistle (Scotch) - "Retaliation." This refers to the rough, prickly nature of the plant, which scratches the hand that tries to gather it; and also to the tradition that during a Danish invasion the approach of the enemy was discovered by the cry a soldier uttered when his foot was pierced by treading on a thistle in the darkness. The decoration of the Scotch Order of the Thistle is a golden chain, entwined with flowers of the thistle, and bearing the motto, "Nemo me im-pune lacessit" (nobody annoys me with impunity).
Thrift - "Sympathy."
Thyme - "Activity."
Traveller's Joy - "Safety."
Tree of Life - "Old age." This is the "arbor vitae."
Trefoil - "Revenge."
Tuberose - "Dangerous pleasures." The heavy scent of this tropical flower is very injurious if enjoyed in excess.
Tulip (red) - "Declaration of love." Throughout the East the tulip is employed as the emblem of a declaration of love, its flaming petals being likened to the wooer's glowing cheeks, and its black centre to his heart burnt up with passion.
Tulip (pink) - "The awakening of love."
Tulip (variegated) - "Beautiful eyes."
Tulip (white) - "Purity."
Tulip (yellow) - "Hopeless love."
Ulex (furze) - "Humility."
Valerian - "An accommodating disposition." This meaning was given on account of the facility with which this plant propagates itself.