#51 – Horizon-blue Bleuets

Cornflowers, France. [Alamy image ref. B1TXW7]

I did a double-take when I saw this corner of a French cornfield full of Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) – also known locally in the UK as Bachelor’s Button, Bluebottle, Boutonniere Flower, Hurtsickle and Cyani Flower. It is a small annual flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to Europe. In the past it often grew as a weed in crop fields, hence its name (fields growing grains such as wheat, barley, rye and oats are generically known as cornfields in the UK). However, it is now endangered in its native habitat, almost entirely wiped-out by agricultural intensification, particularly the overuse of herbicides, in the United Kingdom where it has declined from more than 264 sites to just three in the last half century.

In “Turner’s Herbal” (1568) it is introduced to the reader as… “Blewbottel, otherwise called Blewblawe, is named in Greek Kyanos; in Latin, Cyanus, or Ceruleus; in Duche, Blaw Cornblumen; in Frenche, au Fioin, or Blaucole, or Bleuet.”

The traditional English name Hurtsickle also receives a mention by Gerarde… “…it hindereth and annoieth the reapers by dulling and turning the edges of their sickles in reaping of corne.”

Whereas the Poppy is recognized by British and Commonwealth forces as the flower for Remembrance Day (November 11th) the Bleuet – as it is known in France – was chosen by French forces because of the colour similarity to the uniform of the young soldiers, who were known as “Bleuets” during the Great War or 1914-18. The bluet was the nickname given to the young “horizon-blue” uniform jacket clad recruits by the first “Poilus” (the French soldiers of WW I), who also used to wear madder-red trousers! The “French Bleuet” is the commemorative symbol of the First World War… a brooch or a pin people generally wore in the button hole.

Licensed RM by Alamy for a Russian Federation consumer magazine with a 10,000 print-run, specialising in arts and crafts, under my “Farming Today” pseudonym.

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