Plants on Coins
I have written about animals on coins and what we can learn from them and it therefore seems only fair to also present an item about plants on coins. After all, animal life depends on plants. So, are there any plants on coins? Of course there are and the early settlers of the North American East Coast must have been so impressed by the trees in their “New World” that they put them on their coins: pine trees on Massachusetts coins and others in the New England of the 17 th century; maple leaves on coins from Canada etc. The cedar pine trees of Lebanon are also legendary and unsurprisingly feature on some of that country’s coinage like, for instance, the 50 piastres of 1929 and the brown 10 piastres of 1972.
Trees as symbols of strength, endurance, shelter and food providers have played an important role in the minds of many cultures and for that reason are quite common motifs. My Zimbabwe 10 cent coin shows a giant baobab tree and so does probably my 50 ariary coin from Madagascar. My 2003 Colombian 500 Peso coin with golden centre and silver outer ring features the magnificent guacari tree (Albizia saman) with disproportionately large leaves. The German 5 Mark coin of 1929 shows a sturdy oak tree also with hugely oversized leaves, leaves that used to be present too on the German pre-Euro 5-Mark banknote and still adorn the Croatian 5 Lipa coin. Palm trees, whether date palms as on the 1960 10 Agorot or the current nickel/bronze 10 New Shekel coins from Israel, the 12 Riyal coin from Saudi Arabia, or coconut palms like the ones on the 2 Piso coin from the Philippines, provide an idea of the tree’s appreciation in these countries.
The mountain ash’s leaves and fruits adorn the pre-Euro two-coloured 10 Markka coin of Finland with the capercailie on the flipside. The brown Finnish pre-Euro 5-Markka coin also had the design of a plant on the side opposite to that of a reclining seal, namely three leaves of a northern water lily (with a dragonfly resting on one of them). The flower of a lotus (another aquatic plant) can be seen on the golden-coloured 5 jiao coin of China and flowers of an orchid I can find on my shiny 1 jiao coin also from China. The flower of the Hong Kong orchid tree Bauhinia is on all the coins of this “Special Administrative Region” of China that has its own currency, flag, and passport. The national flower of Trinidad and Tobago, scientifically known as the unpronouncable Warszewiczia coccinea, and commonly referred to as the Chaconia, is featured with its leaves on my 25 cent coin from 1983. Flowers again, but this time together with a butterfly, probably a Papilio homerus, are to be seen on one side of the 1989 10 cent coin from Jamaica. The 20 cent coin from that island nation, incidentally, features a tree again: the national tree of Jamaica known as the Blue Mahoe.
Obviously plants on coins can teach you quite a bit about country and people, but they can also highlight the importance of plants as an essential part of our nutrition. Rice plants, for instance, are recognized for their importance as food on the Korean 50 won coin and the old Madagascar 5 ariaray. Croatia honours the sweet corn or maize, which is originally from America, on its tiny 1 Lipa coin and vanilla is prominent on the 10 francs 1970 series from Madagascar. Coins of the European Union in comparison seem rather dull, don’t they, but at least Portugal’s 2007 commemorative 2 Euro coin features a tree: the cork oak Quercus suber. There is some Botany after all and before I end I must also not forget the UK thistles !
© Dr V.B. Meyer-Rochow and http://www.bioforthebiobuff.wordpress.com, 2018.
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