From 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells:
“Spireas grow worldwide and were imported to Europe from America, Japan, China, and elsewhere in Asia. The Chinese reputedly used the flexible branches to make whips. Alice Coats observes that one Chinese name for spirea means ‘driving horse whip.’ They were well known in ancient Greece, where their whippy branches were used to make wreaths and garlands. The name ‘spirea’ comes from the Greek speiraia, which was a plant used in garlands, presumably named from the Greek word speira (a spiral).
“The Greeks had a pleasant interest in garlands and used them on sad, happy, and triumphant occasions. Dionysus is supposed to have made the first wreath out of ivy, and the use of wreaths spread to sacrificial animals, to priests, and to the people. In spring Athenians garlanded children who had passed the perilous period of infancy and reached their third year. Brides and grooms wore wreaths of flowers and heroes were crowned with them. Different flowers and evergreens were used for different occasions, depending on convention and availability.
“Spireas may have been used particularly for weddings as many are covered with small white flowers that seem appropriate to brides. [It] was called ‘bridewort’ early on in Britain and is called ‘bridal wreath’ today.”
The little white flowers on this bridal wreath spirea are no larger than a typical shirt button. The gallery below progresses through a series of photos starting with images of one fully opened flower, then two, then three, ending with some larger clusters that include the soft white shapes of other flowers in the background. From these photos you can see that the plant is early in its blooming life: there were hundreds of unopened flowers so I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to photograph the plant again in full bloom soon.
Thanks for taking a look!
Not to sound too much like a schoolboy, but “Bridal wreath” seems much nicer than “bridewort.”
Before finding that quote, “spiderwort” was the only “wort” plant I had heard of. But it turns out there are a slew of plants with names ending in “wort” — Wikipedia has a whole page about them, for some reason!
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wort_plants. Someone should rename them all….
A righteous quest, renaming all those plants. “Wort” to me means a step in brewing ? beer.