The meaning of Flowers
ALSTROEMERIA Resembling a miniature lily, alstroemeria, often called the Peruvian Lily or Lily of the Incas, was named after its discoverer, Baron Claus von Alstromer, a Swedish baron who collected the seeds.
AMARYLLIS Legend has it that the amaryllis - the stunning red flower we've come to associate with the holidays began as a shy, timid nymph. Amaryllis fell deeply in love with Alteo, a shepherd with Hercules' strength and Apollo's beauty, but her affections were unrequited. Hoping that she could win him over by bestowing upon him the thing he desired most - a flower so unique it had never existed in the world before - Amaryllis sought advice from the oracle of Delphi. Following his instructions, Amaryllis dressed in maiden's white and appeared at Alteo's door for 30 nights, each time piercing her heart with a golden arrow. When at last Alteo opened his door, there before him was a striking crimson flower, sprung from the blood of Amaryllis's heart. With this romantic - albeit tragic - tale as its beginning, it's not surprising that today the amaryllis has come to symbolize pride, determination and radiant beauty
ANEMONE The name anemone comes from the Greek word for “windflower.” According to Greek mythology, the anemone sprang from Aphrodite’s tears as she mourned the death of Adonis. Thought to bring luck and protect against evil, legend has it that when the anemone closes its petals, it’s a signal that rain is approaching. Still other mythology connects the anemone to magical fairies, who were believed to sleep under the petals after they closed at sunset. Perhaps it’s because of this magical and prophetic tales that today in the language of flowers, anemones represent anticipation.
ANTHURIUM With their open, heart-shaped flowers and tropical disposition, it’s no wonder that anthurium have come to symbolize hospitality. Also known as the Flamingo Flower, Boy Flower, Painted Tongue and Painter’s Palette – because of their distinctive shape and color – the name anthurium comes from Greek, meaning “tail flower.” Exotic and compelling, with bold, typically red flowers and shiny, dark green foliage, anthurium, like the hospitality they represent, are long-lasting and irresistibly beautiful.
ASTER With their wildflower beauty and lush texture, asters have long been considered an enchanted flower. In ancient times, it was thought that the perfume from their burning leaves could drive… More on the meaning of Aster
BIRD OF PARADISE Bearing an unmistakable resemblance to a brightly colored bird in flight, bird of paradise are native to south Africa and represent joyfulness and (not surprisingly) paradise itself. Also known as Crane flowers, they are distinctive and striking, spectacularly shaped like a bird’s beak and plumage. Bird of Paradise are the 9th wedding anniversary flower.
BLUE FLOWERS Blue flowers hold a special significance in the language of flowers and apparently – given their longstanding popularity – a special place in our hearts as well.
BOUVARDIA Named after Charles Bouvard, the personal physician to Louis XIII and the superintendent of the Royal Gardens in Paris, modern varieties of bouvardia have names such as Pink Luck, Albatross and Royal Katty.
carnation With a history that dates back more than 2,000 years, it’s not surprising that carnations are rich with symbolism, mythology and even debate. While some scholars suggest that their name comes from the word “corone” (flower garlands) or “coronation” because of its use in Greek ceremonial crowns, others propose that it’s derived from from the Latin “carnis” (flesh) referring to the flower’s original pinkish-hued colour or “incarnacyon” (incarnation), referring to the incarnation of God-made flesh. Today, carnations can be found in a wide range of colours, and while in general they express love, fascination and distinction, virtually every colour carries a unique and rich association. White carnations suggest pure love and good luck, light red symbolizes admiration, while dark red represents deep love and affection. Purple carnations imply capriciousness, and pink carnations carry the greatest significance, beginning with the belief that they first appeared on earth from the Virgin Mary’s tears – making them the symbol of a mother’s undying love.
Chrysanthemum With a history that dates back to 15th century B.C., chrysanthemum mythology is filled with a multitude of stories and symbolism. Named from the Greek prefix “chrys-“ meaning golden (its original colour) and “-anthemion,” meaning flower, years of artful cultivation have produced a full range of colours, from white to purple to red. They’re the November birth flower and the 13th wedding anniversary flower. In Greece they bloom in the autumn.
Daffodil (narcissus) Symbolizing rebirth and new beginnings, the daffodil is virtually synonymous with spring. Though their botanic name is narcissus, daffodils are sometimes called jonquils.
Delphinium (larkspur) Derived from the Greek word “delphis,” meaning dolphin, delphinium are also commonly known as larkspur.
Freesia Named after the German physician Friedrich Heinrich Theodor Freese, freesia – with their bell-shaped blooms and sweet, citrus scent – are among the most popular fragrant flowers. And, while in most cases the white variation of a flower is the most fragrant, in the case of freesia, the pink and red varieties are actually more highly scented. With their wiry stems and delicate blooms, it’s not surprising that one of the most popular freesia varieties is named Ballerina.
Gladiola Named for the shape of their leaves, gladioli – from the Latin word “gladius,” meaning sword – have a history than spans from Africa to the Mediterranean. Symbolizing strength and moral integrity.
Heather Heather’s scientific name, “Calluna vulgaris,” comes from the Greek “Kallune,” meaning “to clean or brush,” and the Latin “vulgaris,” meaning “common,” as heather twigs were once used for making brooms.
Hyacinth Legend has it the origin of hyacinth, the highly fragrant, bell-shaped flower, can be traced back to a young Greek boy named Hyakinthos. As the story goes, two gods – Apollo the sun god, and Zephyr the god of the west wind – adored Hyakinthos and competed for his attention. One day, while Apollo was
teaching Hyakinthos the art of throwing a discus, Zephyr, in a jealous rage, blew the discus back, killing Hyakinthos with a strike to the head. Apollo named the flower that grew from Hyakinthos’s blood hyacinth. Symbolizing sport or play in the language of flowers, hyacinth represent constancy, while blue hyacinth expresses sincerity.
Hydrangea First discovered in Japan, the name hydrangea comes from the Greek “hydor,” meaning water, and “angos,” meaning jar or vessel. This roughly translates to “water barrel,” referring to the hydrangea’s need for plenty of water.
Iris The iris’s mythology dates back to Ancient Greece, when the goddess Iris, who personified the rainbow (the Greek word for iris), acted as the link between heaven and earth.
Lilac The story of lilac, according to Greek mythology, begins with a beautiful nymph named Syringa (lilac’s botanical name). Captivated by her beauty, Pan, the god of the forests and fields, chased Syringa through the forest. Frightened by Pan’s affections, Syringa escaped him by turning herself into an aromatic bush – the flower we now refer to as lilac. The 8th wedding anniversary flower, lilacs are frequently considered a harbinger of spring, with the time of their bloom signalling whether spring will be early or late. In the language of flowers, purple lilacs symbolize the first emotions of love, while white lilacs represent youthful innocence
Lily Dating as far back as 1580 B.C., when images of lilies were discovered in a villa in Crete, these majestic flowers have long held a role in ancient mythology. Derived from the Greek word “leiron,” (generally assumed to refer to the white Madonna lily), the lily was so revered by the Greeks that they believed it sprouted from the milk of Hera, the queen of the gods. Lilies are known to be the May birth flower, and the 30th wedding anniversary flower. While white lilies symbolize chastity and virtue – and were the symbol of the Virgin Mary’s purity and her role of Queen of the Angels – as other varieties became popular, they brought with them additional meanings and symbolism as well. Peruvian lilies, or alstroemeria, represent friendship and devotion, white stargazer lilies express sympathy and pink stargazer lilies represent wealth and prosperity. Symbolizing humility and devotion, lilies of the valley are the 2nd wedding anniversary flower.
Lisianthus With a host of names – from Texas Bluebell to Prairie Gentian to Lira de San Pedro – lisianthus symbolize an outgoing nature. Native to Texas and Mexico.
Orchid The most highly coveted of ornamental plants, the delicate, exotic and graceful orchid represents love, luxury, beauty and strength. In ancient Greece, orchids were associated with virility. In fact, Greek women believed that if the father of their unborn child ate large, new orchid tubers, the baby would be a boy. If the mother ate small orchid tubers, she would give birth to a girl. During the Victorian era, orchid symbolism shifted to luxury, and today this sense of magnificence and artful splendour continues, with orchids representing rare and delicate beauty. The 14th wedding anniversary flower, pink orchids convey pure affection, and the popular cattelya orchid represents mature charm.
Peony With a recorded history that dates back thousands of years, it’s not surprising that even the mythology surrounding the origin of the peony has multiple versions.
Poinsettia Also known as the Christmas Star and Christmas Flower, it’s said that this winter flower’s association with Christmas comes from a Mexican legend.
Among the oldest families of flowers on earth, dating back 300 million years, Greek legend tells us that protea were named after Proteus, the son of Poseidon. A sea god who had the power to know all things.
Queen Anne’s Lace Legend has it that Queen Anne, the wife of King James I, was challenged by her friends to create lace as beautiful as a flower. While making the lace, she pricked her finger, and it’s said that the purple-red flower in the center of Queen Anne’s Lace represents a droplet of her blood. Also called Wild Carrot (since Queen Anne’s Lace is the wild progenitor of today’s carrot), Bishop’s Lace or Bird’s Nest (for the nest-like appearance of the bright white and rounded flower in full bloom), in the language of flowers, Queen Anne’s Lace represents sanctuary.
Ranunculus Native to Asia and celebrated for its medicinal properties as well as its bright beauty, the small camellialike ranunculus ranges from white to pink, red to yellow to orange.
Rose Long a symbol of love and passion, the ancient Greeks and Romans associated roses with Aphrodite and Venus, goddesses of love. Used for hundreds of years to convey messages without words, they also represent confidentiality. In fact, the Latin expression “sub rosa” (literally, “under the rose”) means something told in secret, and in ancient Rome, a wild rose was placed on the door to a room where confidential matters were being discussed. Each colour offers a distinct meaning: red, the lover’s rose, signifies enduring passion; white, humility and innocence; yellow, expressing friendship and joy; pink, gratitude, appreciation and admiration; orange, enthusiasm and desire; white lilac and purple roses represent enchantment and love at first sight. The number of stems in a rose bouquet can also express specific sentiments. Not surprisingly, June – the month so often associated with weddings – is National Rose Month.
Snapdragon Derived from the Greek words “anti,” meaning like, and “rhin,” meaning nose, antirrhinum, the snapdragon’s botanical name, is a fitting description of this snout-shaped flower.
Statice Grown for its colourful flowers and its everlasting calyx (the green leaf that encloses the flower bud), statice is also considered an herb, referred to as “sea lavender.” Statice is commonly used in dried arrangements.
Stock A symbol of happy life and contented existence, the stock flower, with its sweet, heady-scented blooms, is native to South-western Greece and the Mediterranean. Typically found in white, pink and lilac colours.
Sunflower While their distinctive and brilliant appearance makes it easy to see why sunflowers have long held our fascination, when they were first grown in Central and South America, it was more for their usefulness (providing oil and food) than beauty. And perhaps this unique combination of striking beauty and utility is, in part, why sunflowers have appeared as such revered symbols throughout the ages. It’s said that the natives of the Inca Empire worshipped a giant sunflower, and that Incan priestesses wore large sunflower disks made of gold on their garments.
Sweet Pea With its richly coloured yet small, delicate flowers, the sweet pea’s history can be traced back to 17th century Italy, when a Sicilian monk, Franciscus Cupani, sent its seeds to England.
tropical flowers Native to the Tropics, areas of the world where the sun reaches a point directly overhead at least once during the solar year, tropical flowers are sometimes called exotic flowers because of their association with alluring, lush locations that are warm year-round. In fact, many tropical flowers grown in Hawaii today are thought to have originally come from such extraordinary places as the Amazon Basin in Brazil,
the Congo Basin in West Africa and Indonesia. Meanings vary among the numerous varieties of tropical flowers.
Tulip Originally from Persia and Turkey, tulips were brought to Europe in the 16th century, where they got their common name from the Turkish word for gauze (with which turbans were wrapped) - reflecting the turban-like appearance of a tulip in full bloom. By the 17th century, the popularity of tulips, particularly in the Netherlands, became so great that the price of a single bulb soared to new heights, causing markets to crash and putting into motion "tulip mania." Although different tulip colours carry distinct meanings yellow tulips symbolizing cheerful thoughts, white conveying forgiveness and purple representing royalty - a Turkish legend may be responsible for the red tulip's symbolism. The story goes that a prince named Farhad was love struck by a maiden named Shirin. When Farhad learned that Shirin had been killed, he was so overcome with grief that he killed himself - riding his horse over the edge of a cliff. It's said that a scarlet tulip sprang up from each droplet of his blood, giving the red tulip the meaning "perfect love." The 11th wedding anniversary flower, it's said that the tulip’s velvety black center represents a lover's heart, darkened by the heat of passion. With the power to rival roses in their red variety and the sweet charm to express simple joy when yellow, it’s no wonder that in addition to all its other symbolism, in the language of flowers, a tulip bouquet represents elegance and grace.
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