"The rose has but a summer reign,
The daisy never dies"
- James Montgomery, The Daisy
The daisy derived its English name from the Anglo-Saxon term daes eage, or "day's eye," referring to the way this flower opens and closes with the sun.
Primarily known as the symbol of childhood innocence, this charming wildflower is said to originate from a Dryad who presided over forests, meadows, and pastures. According to Roman mythological legend, the nymph Belides, as she danced with the other nymphs at the edge of the forest, caught the eye of Vertumnus, the god of the orchards. To escape his unwanted attention, she transformed herself into the flower bellis, which is the daisy's botanical name.
Similar in appearance to some chrysanthemums, daisies continue to be associated with simplicity and modesty — two characteristics carried over from Victorian times. A well-known practice originated with heartbroken Victorian maids who wished to be loved once again by their suitors. A maid would pluck a daisy's petals one by one, chanting, "He loves me, he loves me not," for each petal pulled. Of course, it was the last petal that predicted the situation's outcome.
A young maiden would also pick a handful of daisies with her eyes closed. The number of blossoms she held in her hand told of the number of years that remained until she married.
While its modest simplicity made the daisy a favorite flower of many poets, its healing and predictive powers made it popular not only with farmers, but also with an infamous English king. Spring, medieval farmers would say, would not arrive until one could set a foot on twelve daisies; to dream of daisies in springtime or summer was a lucky omen, but dreams of them in fall or winter meant certain doom. Transplanting wild daisies to a cultivated garden was considered to be very unlucky. King Henry VIII ate dishes of daisies to relieve himself from his stomach-ulcer pain; during this time it was also believed that drinking crushed daisies steeped in wine, in small doses over 15 days, would cure insanity.
Generally speaking, daisies indicate innocence, purity, and gentleness on behalf of both the giver and the receiver. Daisies say, "You have as many virtues as this plant has petals," or, "I will consider your request." A white daisy represents shared feelings of affection, while a red daisy tells of beauty unknown to the possessor.