We used amaranthus in the urns created for the recent Strictly Come Dancing wedding between Karen Hauer and Kevin Clifton at One Great George St, and it’s such a beautiful flower we thought we’d look into it a bit further.
The first thing we found out is that it’s actually cultivated for food in various places across the world! It’s leaves and roots are highly nutritious and supposed to taste a bit like spinach. It’s used widely in Asian, Indian and South American cooking. It has an important role in Aztec history and ritual. In Mexico, the grains are toasted like popcorn and served as a treat with honey and chocolate. It’s known as ‘alegria’, meaning ‘joy’.
But it’s the flowers we’re really interested in. These beautiful tassels come in shades of purple, red, green and gold and the delicate tails sway in the wind. Otherwise known as “Love lies bleeding”, the amaranthus symbolises unfading love and longevity, which makes it perfect for weddings.
One of Aesop’s Fables compares the amaranthus with a rose to illustrate the difference between short-lived and everlasting beauty:
An amaranth planted in a garden near a Rose-Tree, thus addressed it: “What a lovely flower is the Rose, a favorite alike with Gods and with men. I envy you your beauty and your perfume.” The Rose replied, “I indeed, dear Amaranth, flourish but for a brief season! If no cruel hand pluck me from my stem, yet I must perish by an early doom. But thou art immortal and dost never fade, but bloomest for ever in renewed youth.”