Amaranth (Globe) - Immortal love

Amaranthus, collectively known as amaranth, is a cosmopolitan genus of herbs. Approximately 60 species are recognized, with inflorescences and foliage ranging from purple and red to gold. Members of this genus share many characteristics and uses with members of the closely related genus Celosia.

Although several species are often considered weeds, people around the world value amaranths as leaf vegetables, cereals, and ornamentals. The ultimate root of "amaranth" is the Greek μάραντος (amarantos) "unfading" with the Greek word for "flower" νθος (anthos) factoring into the word's development as "amaranth" - the more correct "amarant" is an archaic variant.

Amaranthus shows a wide variety of morphological diversity among and even within certain species. Although the family (Amaranthaceae) is distinctive, the genus has few distinguishing characters among the 70 species included. This complicates taxonomy and Amaranthus has generally been considered among systematists as a "difficult" genus.

Formerly, Sauer (1955) classified the genus into 2 sub-genera, differentiating only between monoecious and dioecious species: Acnida (L.) Aellen ex K.R. Robertson and Amaranthus. Although this classification was widely accepted, further infrageneric classification was (and still is) needed to differentiate this widely diverse group.

Currently, Amaranthus includes 3 recognized sub-genera and 70 species, although species numbers are questionable due to hybridization and species concepts. Infrageneric classification focuses on inflorescence, flower characters and whether a species is monoecious/dioecious, as in the Sauer (1955) suggested classification. A modified infrageneric classification of Amaranthus was published by Mosyakin & Robertson (1996) and includes 3 subgenera: Acnida, Amaranthus, and Albersia. The taxonomy is further differentiated by sections within each of the sub-genera.

The flowers of the 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth were used by the Hopi (a tribe in the western United States) as the source of a deep red dye. There is also a synthetic dye that has been named "amaranth" for its similarity in color to the natural amaranth pigments known as betalains. This synthetic dye is also known as Red No. 2 in North America and E123 in the European Union.

The genus also contains several well-known ornamental plants, such as Amaranthus caudatus (love-lies-bleeding), a native of India and a vigorous, hardy annual with dark purplish flowers crowded in handsome drooping spikes. Another Indian annual, A. hypochondriacus (prince's feather), has deeply veined lance-shaped leaves, purple on the under face, and deep crimson flowers densely packed on erect spikes.

Amaranths are recorded as food plants for some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species including the nutmeg moth and various case-bearer moths of the genus Coleophora: C. amaranthellaC. enchorda (feeds exclusively on Amaranthus), C. immortalis (feeds exclusively on Amaranthus), C. lineapulvella and C. versurella (recorded on A. spinosus).

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Alstroemeria - Aspiring

Alstroemeria (syn. Alstremeria), commonly called the Peruvian Lily or Lily of the Incas, is a South American genus of about 120 species of flowering plants. Almost all of the species are restricted to one of two distinct centers of diversity, one in central Chile, the other in eastern Brazil. Species of Alstroemeria from Chile are winter-growing plants while those of Brazil are summer-growing. All are long-lived perennials except A. (Taltalia) graminea, a diminutive annual from the Atacama Desert of Chile.

The genus was named for the Swedish baron Clas Alströmer (Claus von Alstroemer 1736 - 1794) by his close friend Carolus Linnaeus. The plant was first described by the French botanist Louis Feuillée. The plant's seeds were among many collected by Alströmer on a trip to South America in 1753.

The plants are distinctive vegetatively, with a rootstock consisting of a slender rhizome or group of rhizomes (the "crown"). Storage roots consist of sausage-like water storing structures "suspended" from the rhizome by major roots. In this way the root system resembles that of dahlias. Above-ground shoots may be very short in some alpine Andean species (a few inches tall) or up to about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall in other species. Each year (more often in some hybrids) up to 80 new shoots are produced from the rootstock and each terminates in an umbel of a few up to 10 or so flowers.

Perhaps the most fascinating- and telltale- morphological trait of Alstroemeria and its relatives is the fact that the leaves are resupinate, that is, they twist from the base so that what appears to be the upper leaf surface is in fact the lower leaf surface. This very unusual botanical feature is easily observed in the leaves on cut flowers from the florist.

The flowers of Alstroemeria are generally showy. All six tepals (tepal denotes either petal or sepal when both are similar, as in lilies, amaryllis, etc.) are roughly similar. In some species two tepals are enlarged and vividly colored and act as "flags" for pollination. The ovary is inferior and the seeds are hard and rounded. Alstroemeria is named after the Swedish botanist Baron Klas von Alstroemer.

Many hybrids and about 190 cultivars have been developed, with different markings and colors, ranging from white, golden yellow, and orange, to apricot, pink, red, purple, and lavender. The most popular and showy hybrids commonly grown today result from crosses between species from Chile (winter-growing) with species from Brazil (summer-growing). This strategy has overcome the problem of seasonal dormancy and resulted in plants that are evergreen, or nearly so, and flower for most of the year. This breeding work derives mainly from trials that began in the United States in the 1980s. The flower, which resembles a miniature lily, is very popular for bouquets and flower arrangements in the commercial cut flower trade. It has a vase life of about two weeks. It is sometimes also called 'Ulster Mary' (a corruption of the genus name).

Most cultivars available for the home garden will bloom in the late spring and early summer. The roots are hardy to a temperature of 23 °F (−5 °C). The plant requires at least six hours of morning sunlight, regular water, and well-drained soil.

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Aloe - Grief

Aloe also Aloë, is a genus containing about 500 species of flowering succulent plants. The most common and well known of these is Aloe vera, or "true aloe".

The genus is native to Africa, and is common in South Africa's Cape Province, the mountains of tropical Africa, and neighboring areas such as Madagascar, the Arabian peninsula, and the islands of Africa.

The APG III system (2009) places the genus in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae, subfamily Asphodeloideae. In the past it has also been assigned to families Aloaceae and Liliaceae or lily family. Members of the closely allied genera Gasteria, Haworthia and Kniphofia, which have a similar mode of growth, are also popularly known as aloes. The plant Agave americana, which is sometimes called "American aloe", belongs to Asparagaceae, a different family.

Most Aloe species have a rosette of large, thick, fleshy leaves. The leaves are often lance-shaped with a sharp apex and a spiny margin. Aloe flowers are tubular, frequently yellow, orange, pink or red, and are borne, densely clustered and pendant, at the apex of simple or branched, leafless stems.

Many species of Aloe appear to be stemless, with the rosette growing directly at ground level; other varieties may have a branched or unbranched stem from which the fleshy leaves spring. They vary in color from grey to bright-green and are sometimes striped or mottled. Some Aloes native to South Africa are arborescent.

Aloe species are frequently cultivated as ornamental plants both in gardens and in pots. Many Aloe species are highly decorative and are valued by collectors of succulents. Aloe vera is used both internally and externally on humans, and is claimed to have some medicinal effects, which have been supported by scientific and medical research. The gel in the leaves can be made into a smooth type of cream that can heal burns such as sunburn. They can also be made into types of special soaps.

Historical uses
Historical use of various Aloe species by humans is well documented. Documentation of the clinical effectiveness is available, although relatively limited.

Of the 500+ species of Aloe, only a few were used traditionally as a herbal medicine, aloe vera again being the most commonly used version of aloe in herbal medicine. Also included are Aloe perryi (found in northeastern Africa) and Aloe ferox (found in South Africa).

The Greeks and Romans used aloe vera to treat wounds. In the Middle Ages, the yellowish liquid found inside the leaves was favored as a purgative. Unprocessed aloe that contains aloin is generally used as a laxative, whereas processed aloe vera juice does not usually contain significant aloin.

Some species, particularly Aloe vera are used in alternative medicine and in the home first aids. Both the translucent inner pulp and the resinous yellow aloin from wounding the Aloe plant are used externally to relieve skin discomforts. As an herbal medicine, aloe vera juice is commonly used internally to relieve digestive discomfort. Some modern research suggests Aloe vera can significantly slow wound healing compared to normal protocols of treatment. Other reviews of randomised and controlled clinical trials have provided no evidence that Aloe vera has a strong medicinal effect.

Today, aloe vera is used both internally and externally on humans. The gel found in the leaves is used for soothing minor burns, wounds, and various skin conditions like eczema and ringworm. The extracted aloe vera juice aloe vera plant is used internally to treat a variety of digestive conditions. The use of this herbal medicine was popularized in the 1950s in many Western countries. The gel's effect is nearly immediate; it also applies a layer over wounds that is said to reduce the chance of any infection. Despite its popularity, aloe is an allergen and should always be tested before use.

There have been relatively few studies about possible benefits of Aloe gel taken internally. Components of Aloe may inhibit tumor growth. There have been some studies in animal models which indicate that extracts of Aloe have a significant anti-hyperglycemic effect, and may be useful in treating Type II diabetes. These studies have not been confirmed in humans.

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Almond - Promise

The almond (Prunus dulcis, syn. Prunus amygdalus Batsch., Amygdalus communis L., Amygdalus dulcis Mill.), is a species of tree native to the Middle East and South Asia. Almond is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree. Within the genus Prunus, it is classified with the peach in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated shell (endocarp) surrounding the seed.

The fruit of the almond is not a true nut, but a drupe, consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed ("nut") inside. Shelling almonds refers to removing the shell to reveal the seed. Almonds are commonly sold shelled (i.e., after the shells are removed), or unshelled (i.e., with the shells still attached). Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water to soften the seedcoat, which is then removed to reveal the white embryo.

The almond is a small deciduous tree, growing 4–10 metres (13–33 ft) in height, with a trunk of up to 30 centimetres (12 in) in diameter. The young twigs are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 3–5 inches long, with a serrated margin and a 2.5 cm (1 in) petiole. The flowers are white or pale pink, 3–5 cm (1–2 in) diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs before the leaves in early spring.

Almonds begin bearing an economic crop in the third year after planting. Trees reach full bearing after five to six years after planting. The fruit is mature in the autumn, 7–8 months after flowering.

The almond fruit measures 3.5–6 cm (1–2 in) long. In botanical terms it is not a nut, but a drupe. The outer covering or exocarp, fleshy in other members of Prunus such as the plum and cherry, is instead a thick leathery grey-green coat (with a downy exterior), called the hull. Inside the hull is a reticulated hard woody shell (like the outside of a peach pit) called the endocarp. Inside the shell is the edible seed, commonly called a nut. Generally, one seed is present, but occasionally there are two.

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Agrimony - Thankfulness

Agrimonia, commonly known as Agrimony, is a genus of 12-15 species of perennial herbaceous flowering plants in the family Rosaceae, native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with one species also in Africa. The species grow to between 0.5–2 m tall, with interrupted pinnate leaves, and tiny yellow flowers borne on a single (usually un-branched) spike.

Agrimonia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Grizzled Skipper (recorded on A. eupatoria) and Large Grizzled Skipper.

Agrimony has a long history of medicinal use. The English poet Michael Drayton once hailed it as an "all-heal", and through the ages it did seem to be a Panacea. The ancient Greeks used Agrimony to treat eye ailments, and it was made into brews to cure diarrhea and disorders of the gallbladder, liver, and kidneys. Anglo-Saxons made a solution from the leaves and seeds for healing wounds; this use continued through the Middle Ages and afterward, in a preparation called eau d'arquebusade, or "musket-shot water". Later, agrimony was prescribed for athlete's foot.

In the United States and Canada, and late into the 19th century, the plant was prescribed for many of these illnesses and more: for skin diseases, asthma, coughs, and gynecological complaints, and as a gargling solution for sore throats.

Recent authors identify Agrimony as a topical astringent for wounds, ulcers and sore throats and an astringent, bitter tonic, indicated for gastrointestinal and urinary problems such as indigestion, diarrhea and colitis, urinary tract infections, enuresis and incontinence and kidney and bladder gravel.

Although the plant has no idiopathic properties, tradition holds that when placed under a person's head, Agrimony will induce a deep sleep that will last until removed. furthermore it was and still is used by wiccans in herb craft to return spells to there sender and also for protection (its made into powder and placed around a home or dwelling, carried around by the person, or placed in a dream pillow).

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Aconite - Misanthropy

Aconitum (A-co-ní-tum), known as aconite, monkshood, wolfsbane, leopard's bane, women's bane, Devil's helmet or blue rocket, is a genus of over 250 species of flowering plants belonging to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). The name comes from κόνιτον meaning without struggle.

These herbaceous perennial plants are chiefly natives of the mountainous parts of the northern hemisphere, growing in moisture retentive but well draining soils on mountain meadows. Their dark green leaves lack stipules. They are palmate or deeply palmately lobed with 5–7 segments. Each segment again is 3-lobed with coarse sharp teeth. The leaves have a spiral or alternate arrangement. The lower leaves have long petioles.

The tall, erect stem is crowned by racemes of large blue, purple, white, yellow or pink zygomorphic flowers with numerous stamens. They are distinguishable by having one of the five petaloid sepals (the posterior one), called the galea, in the form of a cylindrical helmet; hence the English name monkshood. There are 2–10 petals, in the form of nectaries. The two upper petals are large. They are placed under the hood of the calyx and are supported on long stalks. They have a hollow spur at their apex, containing the nectar. The other petals are small and scale-like or non-forming. The 3–5 carpels are partially fused at the base.

The fruit is a follicle, a follicle being a dry, unilocular, many-seeded fruit formed from one carpel, and dehiscing by the ventral suture in order to release seeds.

The roots of Aconitum ferox supply the Nepalese poison called bikh, bish, or nabee. It contains large quantities of the alkaloid pseudaconitine, which is a deadly poison. Aconitum palmatum yields another of the bikh poisons. The root of Aconitum luridum, of the Himalaya, is said to be as poisonous as that of A. ferox or A. napellus.

Several species of Aconitum have been used as arrow poisons. The Minaro in Ladakh use A. napellus on their arrows to hunt ibex, while the Ainu in Japan used a species of Aconitum to hunt bear. The Chinese also used Aconitum poisons both for hunting and for warfare.
Many species of Aconitum are cultivated in gardens, having either blue or yellow flowers. 

Aconitum lycoctonum (Alpine wolfsbane) is a yellow-flowered species common in the Alps of Switzerland. As garden plants the aconites are very ornamental, hardy perennial plants. They thrive in the garden soils, and will grow in the shade of trees. They are easily propagated by divisions of the root or by seeds; care should be taken not to leave pieces of the root where livestock might be poisoned.

The most common plant in this genus, Aconitum napellus (the Common Monkshood) was considered in the past to be of therapeutic and of toxicological importance. Its roots have occasionally been mistaken for horseradish. When touched to one's lip, the juice of the aconite root produces a feeling of numbness and tingling. This plant is used as a food plant by some Lepidoptera species including Dot Moth, The Engrailed, Mouse Moth, Wormwood Pug, and Yellow-tail.

Aconite produced from the roots of a number of different species of Aconitum is used ethnomedically in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), to treat "coldness", general debility, and "Yang deficiency". Misuse of the medicinal ingredients contained in this plant can negatively affect the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, thus resulting in death.

Cultural depictions: Film and Television
In an episode of Home Improvement wolfsbane is given to Tim by Wilson to help him ward off the bad luck he has been experiencing as a presumed result of throwing out a chain letter.

Aconite is also used as a poison in Midsomer Murders, in the episode "Garden of Death".

In the 1931 film Dracula, Wolfsbane is used to keep Dracula out of households. 
Monkshood is used as a plot device in the movie Ginger Snaps, as a means of treating lycanthropy.

In the 1998 play and 2005 film written by Craig Lucas, The Dying Gaul, the main character uses the root of a monkshood plant to attempt to poison his lover's wife.

In the British TV series Heartbeat, in the first episode of series 8 (1998), the poisonings are eventually found to be due to common monkshood root mistaken for horseradish and made into sauce in the pub.

In the television series The Vampire Diaries, Aconitum Vulperia (wolfsbane) is highly toxic to werewolves, similar to the poisonous effects that vervain has on vampires.

Monkshood was used to poison a teenager in episode 3 ("Sympathy for the Devil") of the TV series Rizzoli & Isles.

In the new MTV show Teen Wolf, Wolfsbane is used to hide the true identity of the human side in a werewolf. Also a rare form of Monkshood called Nordic Blue Monkshood is extremely toxic to werewolves in the sense that exposure to the plant will kill them over time, and force transformations.

Aconite or wolf's bane was used by the young magician Merlin in an attempt to poison King Arthur whilst he (Merlin) was under enchantment to the will of the witch Morgana, in an episode of Merlin (series 4) called "A Servant of Two Masters".

Wolf's bane was used in the pilot episode of Grimm by detective Nick Burkhardt to cover his scent while sneaking up on a 'Blutbad', the series equivalent of a traditional werewolf.

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Acanthus - Art

Acanthus is a genus of about 30 species of flowering plants in the family Acanthaceae, native to tropical and warm temperate regions, with the highest species diversity in the Mediterranean Basin and Asia. Common names include Acanthus and Bear's breeches

The generic name is derived from the Greek word ακανθος (acanthos), meaning "thorny."
The genus comprises herbaceous perennial plants, rarely subshrubs, with spiny leaves and flower spikes bearing white or purplish flowers. Size varies from 0.4 to 2 m (1.3 to 6.6 ft) in height.

Several species, especially A. balcanicus, A. spinosus and A. mollis, are grown as ornamental plants. Acanthus leaves were the aesthetic basis for Corinthian capitals.

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Acacia - Secret Love

Acacia is a genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described in Africa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. Many non-Australian species tend to be thorny, whereas the majority of Australian acacias are not. They are pod-bearing, with sap and leaves typically bearing large amounts of tannins and condensed tannins that historically in many species found use as pharmaceuticals and preservatives.

The generic name derives from ακακία (akakia), the name given by early Greek botanist-physician Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40-90) to the medicinal tree A. nilotica in his book Materia Medica. This name derives from the Greek word for its characteristic thorns, ακις (akis, thorn). The species name nilotica was given by Linnaeus from this tree's best-known range along the Nile river.

Acacias are also known as thorntrees, whistling thorns or wattles, including the yellow-fever acacia and umbrella acacias.

The genus Acacia previously contained roughly 1300 species, about 960 of them native to Australia, with the remainder spread around the tropical to warm-temperate regions of both hemispheres, including Europe, Africa, southern Asia, and the Americas. However, in 2005 the genus was divided into five separate genera. The name Acacia was retained for the majority of the Australian species and a few in tropical Asia, Madagascar and Pacific Islands. Most of the species outside Australia, and a small number of Australian species, were reclassified into Vachellia and Senegalia. The two final genera, Acaciella and Mariosousa, only contain about a dozen species from the Americas each.

The leaves of acacias are compound pinnate in general. In some species, however, more especially in the Australian and Pacific islands species, the leaflets are suppressed, and the leaf-stalks (petioles) become vertically flattened, and serve the purpose of leaves. These are known as phyllodes. The vertical orientation of the phyllodes protects them from intense sunlight, as with their edges towards the sky and earth they do not intercept light so fully as horizontally placed leaves. A few species (such as Acacia glaucoptera) lack leaves or phyllodes altogether, but possess instead cladodes, modified leaf-like photosynthetic stems functioning as leaves.

The small flowers have five very small petals, almost hidden by the long stamens, and are arranged in dense globular or cylindrical clusters; they are yellow or cream-colored in most species, whitish in some, even purple (Acacia purpureapetala) or red (Acacia leprosa Scarlet Blaze). Acacia flowers can be distinguished from those of a large related genus, Albizia, by their stamens which are not joined at the base. Also, unlike individual Mimosa flowers, those of Acacia have more than 10 stamens.

The plants often bear spines, especially those species growing in arid regions. These sometimes represent branches which have become short, hard and pungent, or sometimes leaf-stipules. Acacia armata is the Kangaroo-thorn of Australia and Acacia erioloba is the Camelthorn of Africa.

Acacia seeds can be difficult to germinate. Research has found that immersing the seeds in various temperatures (usually around 80 °C) and manual seed coat chipping can improve yields to approximately 80 percent.

In the Central American Acacia sphaerocephala, Acacia cornigera, and Acacia collinsii (collectively known as the bullthorn acacias), the large thorn-like stipules are hollow and afford shelter for several species of Pseudomyrmex ants, which feed on a secretion of sap on the leaf-stalk and small, lipid-rich food-bodies at the tips of the leaflets called Beltian bodies. In return, the ants add protection to the plant against herbivores. Some species of ants will also fight off competing plants around the acacia, cutting off the offending plant's leaves with their jaws and ultimately killing it. Other associated ant species appear to do nothing to benefit their hosts.

Similar mutualisms with ants occur on Acacia trees in Africa, such as the Whistling Thorn acacia. The acacias provide shelter for ants in the hollow stipules and nectar in extrafloral nectaries for their symbiotic ants such as Crematogaster mimosae. In turn, the ants protect the plant by attacking large mammalian herbivores and stem-boring beetles that damage the plant.

Uses and Symbolism
The ancient Egyptians used Acacia in paints.
Acacia farnesiana is used in the perfume industry due to its strong fragrance. The use of Acacia as a fragrance dates back centuries.

The Acacia is used as a symbol in Freemasonry, to represent purity and endurance of the soul, and as funerary symbolism signifying resurrection and immortality. The tree gains its importance from the description of the burial of Hiram Abiff, the builder of King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.

Egyptian mythology has associated the acacia tree with characteristics of the tree of life (see the article on the Myth of Osiris and Isis).

Several parts (mainly bark, root and resin) of Acacia are used to make incense for rituals. Acacia is used in incense mainly in India, Nepal, and China including in its Tibet region. Smoke from Acacia bark is thought to keep demons and ghosts away and to put the gods in a good mood. Roots and resin from Acacia are combined with rhododendron, acorus, cytisus, salvia and some other components of incense. Both people and elephants like an alcoholic beverage made from acacia fruit. According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, the Acacia tree may be the “burning bush” (Exodus 3:2) which Moses encountered in the desert. Also, when God gave Moses the instructions for building the Tabernacle, he said to "make an ark" and "a table of acacia wood" (Exodus 25:10 & 23, Revised Standard Version).

In Russia, Italy and other countries it is customary to present women with yellow mimosas (among other flowers) on International Women's Day (March 8). These "mimosas" are actually from Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle).

Perhaps the most famous acacia is the Arbre du Ténéré in Niger. The reason for the tree's fame is that it used to be the most isolated tree in the world, approximately 400 km (249 mi) from any other tree. The tree was knocked down by a truck driver in 1973.

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