Eco Comment – Mothering Sunday

08 March 2024

After the long cold days of January and February we’re suddenly in the brighter month of March and halfway through Lent. I realise that the church, in it’s wisdom, allows us these special days to relax, or ‘rejoice’ in this case. A chance to appreciate the good things before preparing for the rigours of the second half of Lent and the challenges of Holy Week and Easter.

I was aware of some of the traditions associated with this day; the visit to your mother church as well as your mother, making a simnal cake and giving flowers, but I discovered a new fact in writing this Eco Comment. I’d always associated daffodils with Mothering Sunday but I learnt that the flowers should traditionally be violets and/or primroses, both of which grew wild in the hedgerows and so could be picked on the journey home.

Violets, the scented kind – viola oderata – apparently have a special place in perfumery and the flower has been valued as a scent for over 400 years. It was a difficult scent to create though, thus making it very expensive. However, towards the end of the 19th century a process was discovered that created a solvent extract using the violet leaf with a hint of the flower, which made it much more affordable. This, coincidentally, occurred around the same time that President Woodrow Wilson passed a law in the United States creating a ‘holiday’ on Mother’s Day. Gone are the days when you could gather posies of violets from the hedgerows or even for sale in florists shops, but you can still cultivate them in your garden.

Going back to Mother’s Day, in America it is now the done thing to give carnations as a traditional symbol of appreciation, love and gratitude.

Here in the UK, we tend to give daffodils these days as they represent rebirth and new beginnings. I also like to think that as they grow well in the UK at this time of year it is  a nod towards the carbon footprint and subsequent environmental impact as we don’t have to import them.

If you want to create wild spring flowers, now is the time to do it. Seeds, bulbs and plants are available from many organisations like the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) but are also available in local garden centres. It’s possible to get a packet of seeds for free from the organisation Just Bee ( as they are trying to keep our bee population alive and collecting pollen for the future. Sadly, bees are dying due to pesticides and fewer flowers and meadows. We really need to support them as they pollinate a third of all the food we eat. I’ve seen several posts on social media explaining what to do if a ‘sleepy solitary’ bee is found. Carefully place it on a plate with sugar water or honey in a warm spot so it can reenergise itself. The UK is home to 250 species of bee and they have different ways to survive the winter. Queen bees hibernate but wake up in time to feast on the spring blossom. The Woodland Trust offer advice and packs to help look after bees. They are also collecting data to help track the first sightings of the different bees to better understand how the subtle changes in climate patterns are affecting them. Friends of the Earth also offer advice and information on things we can easily do to support bees in our local environment. If you’re still in doubt, there is also the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

So whatever sort of flowers you choose to give this Mothering Sunday, spare a thought for the growers and cultivators including the bees, without whom there would be no flowers to give. Also, if you make a simnal cake or other special treats this weekend, remember that the flour and the fruit have all benefited from our humble bumble(bees) pollinators.

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

Want to know more about the Eco Group?

Wakefield Cathedral’s Eco Group brings together members of the congregation, volunteers and staff to work towards making the cathedral a greener place to work and worship.

The Eco Group achieves its goals through a variety of activities, including partnerships with local community groups.

We invite anyone and everyone to reach out if they are interested in joining the eco group, or simply finding out more about what we do.

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