Clan & Plant Badges
Before tartans and clan crests were established, plant badges were the obvious symbols of clan affiliation. Many Scottish clans opted for sprigs from trees and bushes -- such as oak, Scots pine, hazel, birch, juniper, rowan and even driftwood -- in order to identify themselves. Other clans chose among Scottish wildflowers for a plant badge.
The National Plant Badge, or more correctly, the floral emblem of Scotland, is the thistle. It is legend that, many centuries ago, during a Danish raiding party, the Danes sought one night to take a slumbering Scottish encampment, patrolled by but one sentry, by surprise. The Danes crept upon them, noiselessly barefooted. Nearer they crept; all was still, no horn sounded. Then in the dark, one man trod on a thistle and let out a loud howl of pain. Alerted to the danger, the hardy Scots leaped from their sleep, fell upon the raiders and defeated them with terrible slaughter. In short, the plant which saved them became known as the Guardian Thistle, and was adopted as the symbol of Scotland along with the motto, "Nemo me impune Laecessit".