Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Miniature carnation

Miniature carnations or spray carnations used to be my favorite flower. I say ‘used to’ for they bring to mind the bigger carnations in the genus Dianthus and this is not a good thing. I don’t care for the bigger carnations simply because they are always tempered with. They are given unnatural colors, made bigger or placed in bouquets with flowers that do not go well together. They are like the neon signs of the old, they have been trivialized and overused.

The botanical name for mini carnations is Dianthus caryophyllus nana. I have not been able to figure out what nana stands for and caryophyllus must be two words put together: Karyo-‘clove tree’ and phyllon-‘leaf’. Dianthus, on the other hand, comes from the Greek words di-‘of Zeus’ and anthos-‘flower’.

The family name is Caryophyllaceae. The word carnation is even more complicated to explain. “Some scholars believe that it comes from "coronation" or "corone" (flower garlands), as it was one of the flowers used in Greek ceremonial crowns. Others think the name stems from the Latin "caro" (genitive "carnis") (flesh), which refers to the original colour of the flower, or incarnatio (incarnation), which refers to the incarnation of God made flesh” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnation).

Carnation is thought to be native to the Mediterranean, however, due to extensive cultivation over thousands of years no one is sure any more about the exact region. Carnation has no scent perhaps also due to cultivation. Previously, their scent must have been likened to that of cloves which are the flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum tree in the Myrtaceae family native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. Cloves are aromatic and they are used as spice.

I am still very partial to mini carnations. I like the high calyx presenting the flower like the hand holding a trophy. I like the size of the plant.

There are generally four or more flowers per stem and the florets are about three cm in diameter. I love the tone variations and the shadows among their petals.


The flowers or the florets, that is the small or reduced flowers are double form or double flowered. Double flowered describes varieties of flowers with extra petals. Like the larger carnations the mini ones are also double flowered with many ruffled petals. Double flowered are popular varieties of many commercial flowers such as roses, impatients and carnations.

I’m learning that having double flowers is one of the first mutations in plants to have been noted thousands of years ago. “Many double flower varieties have no reproductive organs and as a result, they are sexually sterile and must be propagated through cuttings. Environmental agencies ask gardeners not to plant double flowered species as they have little or no wildlife value as access to the nectar is typically blocked by the mutation” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-flowered).

Not all is negative. Mini carnations have kept their faint yet wonderful smell that takes me back to my childhood.


  1. Hi Beste - interesting about the double flowers not having any or little wildlife value ... I used to get carnations occasionally for my mother, when I could find ones that had some scent - she would enjoy them ...

    Flowers have incredible history and their evolution is extraordinary too .. cheers Hilary

  2. I like the idea of a hand holding a trophy. I'll have to pay more attention to their smell next time I see some mini ones...