Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Plants and politics

In countries where many voters are illiterate the symbols of political parties are valuable aids when printed on ballot papers.  In the United Kingdom parties are offered the opportunity to put their logos on ballot papers, and many of these logos are derived from plants.                                                           In September 2006 the Conservative Party adopted an oak (Quercus) tree ‘doodle’ as its logo.  This replaced the ‘freedom torch’ which it had been using since 1977, and was said to reflect David Cameron, the party leader’s interest the ‘environment and quality of life’.                                                     The Green Party, founded as People in 1973, becoming the Ecology Party in 1975, and using its current name since 1985, adopted the sunflower (Helianthus annuus) as its symbol during its Ecology Party days (see image).  It appears that the German Greens were the first to use the sunflower, which has now become an international symbol of Green Parties.  It is, perhaps, strange given frequent the anti-American bias of the early Green Parties that they chose a species native to North America as a symbol.  Green Parties in the U.K. continue to use the sunflower as a symbol, but it is now stylised to the extent that it’s hardly recognisable.                                                                     The Labour Party adopted the red rose (Rosa cv.) as its symbol in 1986, and continued to vigorously use it for some years until the Party’s unexpected defeat in the 1992 general election, since when its use has become less flamboyant.

Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist Party, adopted an (over) stylised Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica) as its symbol in February 2006.






The other major political parties – Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists and United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) do not use plants as emblems.

Observations at the election count at Wandsworth Town Hall, London, 5 May 2022:  Conservative people wore rosettes with stylised oak trees in the centre, Green Party people wore rosettes or badges which incorporated their stylised sunflower and some wore sprigs of rosemary,  Labour’s red rose was little in evidence –  the Labour MP for Putney wore an artificial rose, and the party’s agent wore a red tie with the rose emblem on it, and the Liberal Democrats displayed no plant emblems.

Inset images  Welsh poppy, Windermere, Cumbria, May 2015; Plaid Cymru emblem, Cardiff, March 2017.

Updated 7 May 2022.