Nasturtium is not exactly what you would call a wedding flower—their symbolism is victory in battle and conquest—not a sentiment I would want associated with my relationships. They get that meaning because nasturtium’s botanical name Tropaeolum majus is Latin for trophy, as in a war trophy. They are said to be so named because their round leaves resemble shields and their flowers blood-stained helmets. Nonetheless, they are lovely flowers and useful too. They were once called “Indian cresses” (nasturtium were introduced to Europe from the Americas known then as the “Indies”) because they produce an oil that is similar to that of watercress. So they are eatable—both flowers and leaves can be used in salads—and they make for a beautiful food presentation. You can even use unripe nasturtium seedpods as stand-ins for capers by pickling them.
I most often associate nasturtium flowers with window boxes. The flowers often make long trails over the edges of their planters, creating a beautiful spew of varying shades of reds, oranges and yellows. And because they are so hardy, you often find nasturtium outliving any of the other flowers and climbing over everything!
Lines to a Nasturtium by Anne Spencer
A lover muses
Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa,
I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar,
Into your flaming heart;
Then did I hear crisp crinkled laughter
As the furies after tore him apart?
A bird, next, small and humming,
Looked into your startled depths and fled…
Surely, some dread sight, and dafter
Than human eyes as mine can see,
Set the stricken air waves drumming
In his flight.
Day-torch, Flame-flower, cool-hot Beauty,
I cannot see, I cannot hear your fluty
Voice lure your loving swain,
But I know one other to whom you are in beauty
Born in vain;
Hair like the setting sun,
Her eyes a rising star,
Motions gracious as reeds by Babylon, bar
All your competing;
Hands like, how like, brown lilies sweet,
Cloth of gold were fair enough to touch her feet…
Ah, how the senses flood at my repeating,
As once in her fire-lit heart I felt the furies