Language of flowers  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
symbolism, flower, symbolic meanings of flowers in Western culture

The language of flowers, sometimes called floriography, was a Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken. This language was most commonly communicated through Tussie-Mussies, an art which has a following today.

The nuances of the language are now mostly forgotten, but red roses still imply passionate, romantic love and pink roses a lesser affection; white roses suggest virtue and chastity and yellow roses still stand for friendship or devotion. Also commonly known meanings are sunflowers, which can indicate either haughtiness or respect – they were the favorite flower of St. Julie Billiart for this reason. Gerbera (daisy) means innocence or purity. The iris, being named for the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology, still represents the sending of a message. A pansy signifies thought, a daffodil regard, and a strand of ivy fidelity.



Though most popular in the Victorian period, the symbolic use of flowers dates back to antiquity. In medieval and Renaissance culture, flowers were often given moral meanings. This is most apparent in art in which saints are often depicted with flowers that are symbolic of their virtues. Liana DeGirolami Cheney notes that "some of the Christian symbols for Virginity or Chastity are the white rose, the myrtle, a vessel or vase, the lily, and the unicorn".

The Turkish "Salem", or language of objects, developed to communicate any message without the need to write.

There is also an independent Japanese flower language, called hanakotoba.

Symbolic meaning of some common flowers

Flower Meaning Most of the meanings are taken from the book: The Complete Guide to Calligraphy: the Essential Reference for all Calligraphers
Abecedary Volubility
Abatina Fickleness
Acacia Secret, chaste love
Acanthus Art
Acalia Temperance
Aconite Misanthropy
Agrimony Thankfulness
Aloe Grief
Almond Promise
Amaranth (Globe) Immortal love
Anemone Forsaken, Sickness
Angrec Royalty
Apple-blossom Preference
Arbor vitae Everlasting friendship
Balm Social intercourse or sympathy
Balsamine Impatience
Bay wreath Glory
Bee orchid Industry
Bells of Ireland Luck
Bird's foot trefoil Revenge
Box Constancy
Broom Humility
Bulrush Docility
Buttercup Riches
Cabbage Profit
Camellia japonica Unpretending excellence
Campanula Gratitude
Canterbury Bells Gratitude
Carnation pink A woman's love
white Disdain
purple Capriciousness; whimsical; changeable
red My heart aches for you
yellow You have disappointed me; Rejection; disdain
striped Refusal
Celandine Joys to come
Cherry blossom A good education
Transience of life (in Japan)
Feminine beauty (in China)
Chestnut Do me justice
China aster Love of variety
Chrysanthemum red I love
yellow Sighted love
Coreopsis Always cheerful
Cowslip Winning grace
Clover red Industry
white I promise
Coriander Lust
Daffodil Uncertainty, chivalry, respect, or unrequited love
Dahlia Elegance and dignity
Dandelion Coquetry
Eglantine Rose A wound to heal
Elderflower Compassion
Fennel Strength
Forget-me-not True love
Geranium Gentility
Gorse Love in all seasons
Grass Submission
Heliotrope Devotion
Hollyhock Ambition
Honeysuckle Devoted affection, bonds of love
Houseleek Domestic economy
Ivy Dependence
Jonquil Return my affection
Laurestine A token
Lavender Devotion, distrust
Lemon-blossom Discretion
Lettuce Cold-hearted
Lichen Solitude


Flower Meaning
Lilac purple first emotion of love
white youthful innocence
Lily white Purity
scarlet High-souled aspirations
Lime Blossom Fornication
Lobelia Malevolence
Lotus Eloquence
Love lies bleeding Hopelessness
Magnolia Love of nature
Mallow Consumed by love
Marigold Pain and grief
Mayflower Welcome
Mignonette Worth
Mint Suspicion
Morning glory Love In Vain
Mullein Good-nature
Nasturtium Patriotism
Oak leaf Strength
Oats Music
Olive Peace
Oxeye daisy Patience
Pear blossom Lasting friendship
Pitch pine blossom Philosophy
Poppy white Dreams
Rose red True love
blue Mystery, attaining the impossible, and hope for unattainable love
white Silence or innocence, virtue, purity, secrecy, reverence and humility
black Death, hatred, farewell, rejuvenation or rebirth
yellow Friendship, or dying love (or platonic love) or jealousy, infidelity
pink Grace
dark pink Gratitude
light pink Desire, passion, joy of life, youth, energy
burgundy Beauty
coral or orange Desire, passion
lavender (violet) Love at first sight
red and white together Unity
red and yellow together Joy, happiness, and excitement
thornless Love at first sight
Rosemary Remembrance
Rue Regret
Sensitive Plant Sensitivity
Snowdrop Consolation or hope
Star of Bethlehem Hope
Straw United
Sunflower Pure and lofty thoughts
Sweetbrier Simplicity
Thorn-apple Disguise
Thistle Nobility
Thyme Thriftiness
Tulip-tree Fame
Tulip red Declaration of love
yellow Hopeless love
Violet blue Faithfulness
white Modesty
Willow (creeping) Love forsaken
Winged seeds (any kind) Messengers
Witch-hazel A spell
Wheat Wealth and prosperity




See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Language of flowers" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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