FLORIOGRAPHY: Language of Flowers

From the origin of a flower's name to its distinctive characteristics and rich mythology, flowers are infused with symbolism and meaning. Our Language Of Flowers Guide is designed to unravel these hidden mysteries, uncover these floral gems and open you up to a whole new language – the language of flowers.

The Japanese call it Hanakotoba, and King Charles II brought it to Sweden from Persia in the 17th century. Hanakotoba is the Japanese name for associating certain flowers with different meanings. It is an age-old art form. Floriography – a fancy name for the language of flowers – was coined in the Victorian era, and while its original translations may have shifted over time, the notion that through flower symbolism we can express what we want to say (and may not be able to speak out loud) still holds true.

We sense the personalities of different flowers and intuitively choose one over another to fit our mood or the occasion. We do it all the time. That's why we surprise someone with a bunch of bright yellow flowers to cheer them up or declare our fervent passion with two-dozen velvety roses.

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 on a trip to Spain in 1753. Today, this popular flower can be found in a range of colors – from white to golden yellow, orange to apricot, pink to red, lavender and purple. Symbolizing friendship and devotion, the alstroemeria’s leaves grow upside down, with the leaf twisting as it grows out from the stem, so that the bottom is facing upwards – much like the twists, turns and growth of our friendships.  

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.

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

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 away evil serpents. Today, they’re known as a talisman of love and a symbol of patience. Also known as starworts, Michaelmas daisies or Frost flowers, the name aster is derived from the Greek word for “star,” and its star-like flowers can be found in a rainbow of colors – white, red, pink, purple, lavender and blue, with mostly yellow centers. The September birth flower, asters also hold the honor of being the 20th wedding anniversary flower.

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

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 long-standing popularity – a special place in our hearts as well. Whether it's the deep blue petals of an iris.

Bouvadia

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.

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 color).

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. Other names include Lark's Heel, Lark's Claw and Knight's Spur.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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, and descended from a North American wildflower. \

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.

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.

Protea

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.

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.

Ranunculus

Native to Asia and celebrated for its medicinal properties as well as its bright beauty, the small camellia-like ranunculus ranges from white to pink, red to yellow to orange. Also known as Buttercup.

Rose

Long a symbol of love and passion, the ancient Greeks and Romans associated roses with Aphrodite and Venus, goddesses of love.

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 both its colorful flowers and its everlasting calyx (the green leaf that encloses the flower bud), statice is also considered an herb, referred to as "sea lavender."

Stock

A symbol of happy life and contented existence, the stock flower, with its sweet, heady-scented blooms, is native to Southwestern Greece and the Mediterranean.

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.

Sweet Pea

With its richly colored 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.

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).