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Meaning of Flowers

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Roses

Origin & History

Fossil evidence shows that roses have existed since prehistoric times. The first cultivated roses appeared in Asian gardens more than 5,000 years ago. Roses were introduced to Europe during the Roman Empire, where they were mainly used for ornamental purposes. Cleopatra is said to have scattered rose petals before Mark Anthony's feet; Nero released roses from the ceiling during extravagant feasts and banquets.

Sentiment & Symbolism

Roses, it is said, blushed with shame as God expelled Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. According to Roman legend, a number of suitors were keen on marrying a beautiful woman named Rodanthe, but she did not care for any of them. Despite her ambivalence, the suitors continued to woo Rodanthe so zealously that they broke through the doors of her home. Angered by their actions and wanting to teach the suitors a lesson, the goddess Diana turned Rodanthe into a rose, and her suitors into thorns.

The rose is the flower emblem of England. According to English superstition, if the petals fall from a fresh-cut red rose, bad luck will soon follow. The red rose is the badge of the House of Lancaster and the flower of Eros and Cupid. In Wales, the white rose represents innocence and silence, and is thus placed on the grave of a young child. To Native Americans, the white rose symbolizes security and happiness, and is often worn during wedding ceremonies. The white rose is the badge of the House of York and the flower of the Virgin Mary.

Color Messages

Exquisite and radiant, the rose is the principal messenger of love. A single rose denotes perpetual love; two roses of any color taped or wired together signify a commitment or forthcoming marriage.

Single Color Meanings

bulletRed roses of any hue say "I love you"; deep red roses imply unconscious beauty.
bulletWhite roses signify spiritual love and purity; bridal white means happy love.
bulletToday, yellow roses signify joy and gladness; historically, they meant a decrease of love and infidelity.
bulletCoral roses imply desire; orange say "I am fascinated and enthusiastic."
bulletLavender roses mean love at first sight
bulletLight pink roses imply grace, gentility and admiration; dark pink roses say "thank you."
bulletIn general, pale-colored roses signify friendship.

Combined Color Meanings:

bulletRed and yellow roses mixed together say "Congratulations!"
bulletYellow and orange roses together imply passionate thoughts.
bulletRed and white roses signify unity.

 

 

Alstroemeria

Origin & History

Alstroemeria is named after the Swedish botanist Baron Klas von Alstroemeria. This South American flower's seeds were among many collected by von Alstroemeria on a trip to Spain in 1753.

 

Asters

Origin & History

The English called asters both "asters" and "starworts". Aster, Latin for "star," referred to the flower's star-like shape, while wort meant "root," which then applied to plants with healing properties. There are over 600 species of aster, the most popular being the Monte Casino.

Sentiment & Symbolism

Asters are the birth flower for September, and the herb of the goddess Venus. Ancient people believed that the odor of the leaves of the aster, when burnt, drove away serpents. Asters were laid on the graves of French soldiers to symbolize afterthought and the wish that things had turned out differently. One myth tells that asters were created from stardust when Virgo looked down from the heavens and wept. The poet Virgil holds that the altars of the gods were often adorned with asters.

Color Messages

Asters convey an afterthought or variety, except in China, where they signify fidelity.

 

 

 

Bird of Paradise

Origin & History

Botanists are divided on how this remarkable flower got its name. Some maintain that the flower's brilliant orange and blue blossom, which resembles a bird in flight, is named after the bird of paradise itself one of the most beautiful bird species in the world. However, since this flower is also known as the strelitzia, some believe that it was named after England's Queen Charlotte, who was born Charlotte Mecklenber-Strelitz.

 

Carnations

"Carnations and my first love!
And he was seventeen,
And I was only twelve years
a stately gulf between."
- Margaret Widdemer, Carnations

 

Origin & History

The carnation originally called dianthus by the Greek botanist Theopharastus is native to the Near East and has been cultivated for the last 2,000 years. Some scholars believe that the name "carnation" comes from "coronation" or "corone" (flower garlands), as it was one of the flowers used in Greek ceremonial crowns. Others think the name stems from the Greek carnis (flesh), which refers to the original color of the flower, or incarnacyon (incarnation), which refers to the incarnation of God made flesh.

Sentiment & Symbolism

Carnations were known as "Jove's Flower" in ancient Rome as a tribute to one of their beloved gods. In Korea, a young girl places three carnations in her hair to tell her fortune. If the top flower dies first, her last years of life will be difficult; if it's the middle flower, her earlier years will bring the most grief. Worst of all, if the bottom flower dies first, the poor girl will be miserable her whole life!

Color Messages

For the most part, carnations express love, fascination, and distinction. Light red carnations represent admiration, while dark red denote deep love and affection. White carnations indicate pure love and good luck; striped symbolize a regret that a love cannot be shared. Green carnations are for St. Patrick's Day; purple carnations indicate capriciousness.

Pink carnations have the most symbolic and historical significance. According to Christian legend, carnations first appeared on Earth as Jesus carried the Cross. The Virgin Mary shed tears at Jesus' plight, and carnations sprang up from where her tears fell. Thus he pink carnation became the symbol of a mother's undying love, and in 1907 was chosen by Ann Jarvis as the emblem of Mother's Day, now observed in the United States and Canada on the second Sunday in May.

Origin & History

The carnation originally called dianthus by the Greek botanist Theopharastus is native to the Near East and has been cultivated for the last 2,000 years. Some scholars believe that the name "carnation" comes from "coronation" or "corone" (flower garlands), as it was one of the flowers used in Greek ceremonial crowns. Others think the name stems from the Greek carnis (flesh), which refers to the original color of the flower, or incarnacyon (incarnation), which refers to the incarnation of God made flesh.

Sentiment & Symbolism

Carnations were known as "Jove's Flower" in ancient Rome as a tribute to one of their beloved gods. In Korea, a young girl places three carnations in her hair to tell her fortune. If the top flower dies first, her last years of life will be difficult; if it's the middle flower, her earlier years will bring the most grief. Worst of all, if the bottom flower dies first, the poor girl will be miserable her whole life!

Color Messages

For the most part, carnations express love, fascination, and distinction. Light red carnations represent admiration, while dark red denote deep love and affection. White carnations indicate pure love and good luck; striped symbolize a regret that a love cannot be shared. Green carnations are for St. Patrick's Day; purple carnations indicate capriciousness.

Pink carnations have the most symbolic and historical significance. According to Christian legend, carnations first appeared on Earth as Jesus carried the Cross. The Virgin Mary shed tears at Jesus' plight, and carnations sprang up from where her tears fell. Thus he pink carnation became the symbol of a mother's undying love, and in 1907 was chosen by Ann Jarvis as the emblem of Mother's Day, now observed in the United States and Canada on the second Sunday in May.

 

Chrysanthemums

Origin & History

Commonly called "mums" or "tansies," this popular perennial's name comes from the Greek chrysos (gold) and anthos (flower). The Chusan daisy became the "pompom chrysanthemum" so called because in France, where it was first grown, it looked like the pompons on sailors' hats.

Chrysanthemums had been cultivated in Chinese gardens for more than 2,500 years before first being exhibited in England in 1795. Brought by visiting Buddhist monks, the chrysanthemum arrived in Japan in AD 400.

Sentiment & Symbolism

The chrysanthemum has been the focus of Oriental adulation for centuries.

In China, the chrysanthemum's association with autumn stems from its tendency to bloom in the fall. Consequently, the ancient Chinese chose the Chrysanthemum ("chu hua") as their Flower for October, a symbol of the rest and ease that followed the season's final harvest. Mums were considered one of the four Chinese "noble plants" (the others being bamboo, the plum, and the orchid), and were the official badge of the Old Chinese Army. Since chrysanthemums were considered the flower of the Chinese noble class, they were prohibited in a lower-class person's garden. The Chinese believe that a chrysanthemum given to one's beloved, after its being used to wipe one's mouth after drinking wine, will ensure undying love and fidelity.

 

Called "kikus" in Japanese, chrysanthemums were featured on the Imperial Crest of Japan, and were so beloved by Japanese emperors that they sat upon chrysanthemum thrones. The Japanese still hold the chrysanthemum as a symbol of the sun, and they consider the orderly unfolding of the mum's petals to be a symbol of perfection. They also presume that a single chrysanthemum petal placed in the bottom of a wine glass encourages a long and healthy life.

Color Messages

While chrysanthemums generally denote cheerfulness and rest, individual colors do carry specific messages: red for love, good luck and best wishes; white for truth; and yellow for slighted love. Chrysanthemums will be welcomed throughout the British Isles and North America for any occasion. In Italy, however, their exclusive association with the dead makes chrysanthemums acceptable only for funerals.

 

Daisy

"The rose has but a summer reign,
The daisy never dies"
- James Montgomery, The Daisy

Origin & History

The daisy derived its English name from the Anglo-Saxon term daes eage, or "day's eye," referring to the way this flower opens and closes with the sun.

Sentiment & Symbolism

Primarily known as the symbol of childhood innocence, this charming wildflower is said to originate from a Dryad who presided over forests, meadows, and pastures. According to Roman mythological legend, the nymph Belides, as she danced with the other nymphs at the edge of the forest, caught the eye of Vertumnus, the god of the orchards. To escape his unwanted attention, she transformed herself into the flower bellis, which is the daisy's botanical name.

Similar in appearance to some chrysanthemums, daisies continue to be associated with simplicity and modesty two characteristics carried over from Victorian times. A well-known practice originated with heartbroken Victorian maids who wished to be loved once again by their suitors. A maid would pluck a daisy's petals one by one, chanting, "He loves me, he loves me not," for each petal pulled. Of course, it was the last petal that predicted the situation's outcome.

A young maiden would also pick a handful of daisies with her eyes closed. The number of blossoms she held in her hand told of the number of years that remained until she married.

While its modest simplicity made the daisy a favorite flower of many poets, its healing and predictive powers made it popular not only with farmers, but also with an infamous English king. Spring, medieval farmers would say, would not arrive until one could set a foot on twelve daisies; to dream of daisies in springtime or summer was a lucky omen, but dreams of them in fall or winter meant certain doom. Transplanting wild daisies to a cultivated garden was considered to be very unlucky. King Henry VIII ate dishes of daisies to relieve himself from his stomach-ulcer pain; during this time it was also believed that drinking crushed daisies steeped in wine, in small doses over 15 days, would cure insanity.

Color Messages

Generally speaking, daisies indicate innocence, purity, and gentleness on behalf of both the giver and the receiver. Daisies say, "You have as many virtues as this plant has petals," or, "I will consider your request." A white daisy represents shared feelings of affection, while a red daisy tells of beauty unknown to the possessor.

Origin & History

The daisy derived its English name from the Anglo-Saxon term daes eage, or "day's eye," referring to the way this flower opens and closes with the sun.

Sentiment & Symbolism

Primarily known as the symbol of childhood innocence, this charming wildflower is said to originate from a Dryad who presided over forests, meadows, and pastures. According to Roman mythological legend, the nymph Belides, as she danced with the other nymphs at the edge of the forest, caught the eye of Vertumnus, the god of the orchards. To escape his unwanted attention, she transformed herself into the flower bellis, which is the daisy's botanical name.

Similar in appearance to some chysanthemums, daisies continue to be associated with simplicity and modesty two characteristics carried over from Victorian times. A well-known practice originated with heartbroken Victorian maids who wished to be loved once again by their suitors. A maid would pluck a daisy's petals one by one, chanting, "He loves me, he loves me not," for each petal pulled. Of course, it was the last petal that predicted the situation's outcome.

A young maiden would also pick a handful of daisies with her eyes closed. The number of blossoms she held in her hand told of the number of years that remained until she married.

While its modest simplicity made the daisy a favorite flower of many poets, its healing and predictive powers made it popular not only with farmers, but also with an infamous English king. Spring, medieval farmers would say, would not arrive until one could set a foot on twelve daisies; to dream of daisies in springtime or summer was a lucky omen, but dreams of them in fall or winter meant certain doom. Transplanting wild daisies to a cultivated garden was considered to be very unlucky. King Henry VIII ate dishes of daisies to relieve himself from his stomach-ulcer pain; during this time it was also believed that drinking crushed daisies steeped in wine, in small doses over 15 days, would cure insanity.

Color Messages

Generally speaking, daisies indicate innocence, purity, and gentleness on behalf of both the giver and the receiver. Daisies say, "You have as many virtues as this plant has petals," or, "I will consider your request." A white daisy represents shared feelings of affection, while a red daisy tells of beauty unknown to the possessor.

 

 

Gladiolus

Origin & History

The name "gladiolus" is derived from the Latin word gladius, meaning "sword," for the shape of its leaves. An ancient name for the gladiolus was "xiphium," from the Greek word xiphos, also meaning sword. African gladioli were imported in large quantities to Europe from South Africa during the 18th century.

Sentiment & Symbolism

The gladiolus flower is the birth flower for August; it also represented the Roman gladiators. Before the African gladioli became popular in the West, the Mediterranean and British gladiolus flowers were used to treat physical ailments. The English used the gladiolus flower's stem base (corms) as a poultice and for drawing out thorns and splinters; powdered corms mixed with goat's milk was commonly used to soothe the symptoms of colic.

Color Messages

The gladiolus flower signifies remembrance. It also expresses infatuation, telling the receiver that he or she "pierces the heart."

 

Lily

"Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin."
Book of Matthew, VI, 28

Origin & History

The lily's name has pre-classical origins; indeed it was the Greek name leirion and the Roman name lilium from which the name "lily" was derived.

Sentiment & Symbolism

In Christian symbolism the lily represents purity, chastity, and innocence. White lily bouquets are especially popular in Christian homes during the Easter holiday, for they symbolize Christ's resurrection.

Legend tells that the lily sprang from Eve's tears, when upon being expelled from Eden she learned she was pregnant. Other folklore tells of lilies, unplanted by any human hand spontaneously appearing on the graves of people executed for crimes they did not commit. Some believe that planting lilies in a garden will protect the garden from ghosts and evil spirits.

In China, the day lily is the emblem for motherhood. To dream of lilies in spring foretells marriage, happiness and prosperity; to dream of them in winter indicates frustration of hopes, and the premature death of a loved one. The Romans were said to cure corns with the juice from lily bulbs. In ancient Greek and Roman marriage ceremonies, lilies, symbols of purity and innocence, along with wheat, the symbol of fertility, were placed on the bride's crown. Long ago, Spaniards believed that eating a lily's petals would restore someone who had been transformed into a beast back into human form. In medieval times, lilies symbolized feminine sexuality.

Color Messages

On the whole, lilies imply purity of the heart. While lilies come in a variety of colors, most people readily associate lilies with white, meaning innocence and sweetness. The white Madonna lily is considered the special flower of the Holy Virgin, for Christian lore tells that the lily had been yellow until the day the Virgin Mary stooped to pick it. Yellow lilies express gratitude and gaiety.

 

 

Lily of the Valley

Sentiment & Symbolism

The lily of the valley signifies the return of happiness. Legend tells of the affection of a lily of the valley for a nightingale that did not come back to the woods until the flower bloomed in May.

 

Orchid

Origin & History

The orchid's name originates from the Greek orchis, meaning "testicle," and its history is one of lust, greed, and wealth. Some orchids are called "ladies' fingers," "ladies' tresses," or "long purples." Orchids were collected extensively during the 1800s; once, four thousand trees were cut down for the orchids growing on their branches. One collector alone was believed to have sent hundreds of thousands of orchids to England, where most of them died.

Sentiment & Symbolism

There are nearly 25,000 varieties of orchids. Greek women thought they could control the sex of their unborn children with orchid roots. If the father ate large, new tubers, the child would be male; if the mother ate small tubers, the child would be female. Indeed, the orchid's reproductive behavior has intrigued botanists for years: to germinate, an orchid's seeds need to be penetrated by fungus threads. The paphiopedilum orchid was named for Phaphos, a temple on Cyprus where the love goddess Aphrodite was worshipped (and where prostitutes were said to be readily available.) The most famous orchid, the vanilla orchid, was said to give strength to the Aztecs, who drank vanilla mixed with chocolate.

Color Messages

The orchid is a flower of magnificence that brings a universal message of love, beauty, wisdom, and thoughtfulness. In China it signifies refinement, and the innocence of children. A pink orchid conveys pure affection; the popular cattalya orchid denotes mature charm, and is often used in corsages for Mother's Day.

 

 

Poinsettia

 

Origin & History

Originating from tropical Mexico, the poinsettia was named for Dr. Joel Roberts-Poinsett, the US Ambassador to Mexico, who brought the first poinsettia flower to the United States in 1928.

Sentiment & Symbolism

The poinsettia's rich scarlet color comes from its bracts (the leaf-like sections which grow before the flower) rather than the actual flowers themselves. In Mexico (where poinsettias are known to grow as high as sixteen feet) it is known as the Flor de Noch Buena, the "Flower of the Holy Night." Its bracts are said to resemble the flower of Bethlehem; therefore, it is used to decorate churches at Christmastime. To make a poinsettia bloom again the following Christmas, one must cover it every evening so it gets little light. The poinsettia is a member of the euphobia, or spurge family. The name "spurge" originates from the Old French espurge; it was one of the powerful purgatives used in medieval times to rid the body of black bile and melancholy.

Color Messages

Popular worldwide as "the Christmas flower", white, pink and red poinsettias bring wishes of mirth and celebration.

 

 

Tulip

Origin & History

The tulip is a wildflower said to originate from Persia. In the 1500s, tulips were extensively cultivated in Turkey, and because of their resemblance to the "tulbend" a turban worn by Turkish men were called tulipan.

In 1562, tulip bulbs from Constantinople reached Antwerp by ship. Before the turn of the century, tulips had been such a rarity that only the wealthy in Holland could afford them; consequently, tulips became a status symbol for the rich. However, by the 1620s, buying and selling tulips became an activity for merchants, and "tulip madness" ensued. Tulip trading crashed in 1637, throwing Holland into financial ruin. After the Dutch government enforced strict laws for cultivating and selling bulbs, the tulip became the national emblem of Holland.

Sentiment & Symbolism

Oriental legend recounts that a Persian youth, named Ferhad, fell in love with a maiden named Shirin. When Shirin did not accept Ferhad's feelings for her, he went out into the desert to die from his broken heart. As he pined, each tear that fell into the sand turned into a beautiful tulip.

Among the Persian people, the tulip is an offering a young man makes to his beloved. By offering her a tulip, he says, "as the redness of this flower, I am on fire with love." Shortly after World War II, the Dutch shipped hundreds of thousands of tulip bulbs to Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. This symbolic gesture showed their thanks, not only to Canadian soldiers for freeing Holland from German occupation, but also for the Canadian government's welcoming Queen Maria to reside in Ottawa while the war raged on. This remarkable gesture continues to this day.

Color Messages

For the most part, tulips are a declaration of love; a gift from a "perfect lover." Variegated tulips are for "beautiful eyes". Red tulips indicate an irresistible love, while yellow tulips denote a hopeless love with no chance of reconciliation.

 

 

 

Violet

"Such a starved bank of moss Till, that May-morn,
Blue ran the flash across;
Violets were born!"
- Robert Browning, The Two Poets of Croisic

Origin & History

Napoleon was a devout fan of the violet: when he married Josephine, she wore violets, and on every wedding anniversary he sent her a violet bouquet. In 1814, before leaving for his exile in St. Helena, Napoleon asked to visit Josephine's tomb. There he picked the violets that were found in a locket around his neck when he died. The French Bonapartists thus chose the violet as their emblem, and Napoleon was nicknamed "Corporal Violet."

Sentiment & Symbolism

Greek legend tells of a nymph named Io, who was beloved by Zeus. To hide her from Hera, his wife, Zeus changed Io into a white cow. When Io wept over the taste and texture of the coarse grass, Zeus changed her tears into dainty, sweet-smelling violets only she was permitted to eat. Roman myth tells a different story, one of lovely maids of antiquity who became the victims of Venus' wrath when Cupid judged them more beautiful than her. In her jealous fury, Venus beat the maidens until they became blue, and thus turned into violets.

To dream of violets is a promise of advancement in life. It is said that a garland of violets worn about the head prevents dizziness. They are considered a good luck gift to any woman in any season, but where violets bloom in autumn, epidemics will follow within the year.

Color Messages

Violets are a symbol of faithfulness. Blue violets say "I'll always be true" and signify constancy; white violets depict modesty, or the desire to "take a chance on happiness"; and yellow violets convey modest worth.

 

 

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