Z is for Zinnia

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Zinnia belongs to the daisy family. The annual is named in honor of 18th century German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn. The flower attracts hummingbirds and defends against whiteflies, making it a companion plant for crops. Spa products sometimes contain zinnia.

Zinnia is the flower of thoughtfulness and friendship. A gift of a bouquet of mixed zinnia means thoughts of an absent friend, while individual colors are assigned individual meanings, according to the language of flowers. A scarlet zinnia symbolizes constancy, a yellow zinnia means daily remembrance, and a white zinnia represents goodness.

To many Southwestern Native American tribes, zinnia flowers and leaves serve as ritual herbs and medicine. It is one of the sacred plants of the Navajo tribe, and to the Pueblos, zinnia’s a symbol of wisdom and fed to children to inspire intellect. Their blooms create bright dyes and paints.

The name Zinnia has grown in popularity since the late 1960’s, and it has made appearance in many literary works. Zinnia Wormwood is the backward-thinking mother from “Matilda” by Roald Dahl. Jayne Castle released a “St. Helen’s” book titled “Zinnia” with a lead named Zinnia Sprint. Cicely Mary Barker’s “Zinnia’s Magical Adventure” follows the adventures of an inquisitive flower fairy, and Monica Wellington’s “Zinnia’s Flower Garden” presents a girl’s desire to create a perfect garden. Danielle Davis has a middle grade fiction book titled “Zinnia and the Bees” slated to be published in August, 2017.

Zinnia is a plucky flower prolific in Mexico. However, it has a wandering spirit, establishing itself throughout the southwestern US and South America. In early 2016, NASA announced the blooming of a zinnia on the International Space Station, which was the first flower to grow in outer space.