Bleeding Hearts: A Japanese Legend

I was so happy that one of my favorite flowers, the Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis), made it through the winter.

I’m always fascinated with myth and legend, folklore and fairytales. I love tracing the paths these tales take, the ways in which they transform and mutate with time and distance, the ways they’re still evolving even now. I thought I’d share with you the ancient Japanese legend of how the Bleeding Heart flower came to be. This story can be told as you delicately take apart the petals of the flower.

Once upon a time, a young man fell deeply in love with a beautiful and wealthy girl. To win her affection, he lavished her with rare and expensive gifts. First he brought her a pair of the softest, sweetest rabbits:


She accepted his kind gift, but declared she did not love him. Undaunted he searched until he found the most exquisite silk slippers for her tiny feet:


Still she rejected him, though keeping the lovely gift. His money dwindling away, the young man makes one last desperate attempt, seeking far and wide for the most gorgeous earrings he can afford:


His last gift is again met with disdain. He finally realizes he will never win the heart of this woman. Having spent all of his savings and weeping with loneliness, the young man takes his knife and pierces his own heart.


On the spot where his body fell, the first Bleeding Heart grew and flourished, a memorial of beauty and sadness to unrequited love.





2 thoughts on “Bleeding Hearts: A Japanese Legend

  1. I love bleeding heart flowers. I also, very much like, learning the tales, fables, folklore that gave plants (as well as everything else) their names. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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