The Symbolism of flowers

For millennia, and among almost every culture, flowers and trees have been adopted as symbols, type and emblems of human groups and affiliations.  The “War of the Roses” the red and white roses which were the badges of Lancastrian and York rivals to the English throne.

However, this symbolism of flowers dates back to periods far older than the times of the War of the Roses.  The ancient civilisations had each its own emblematic flower.  The special power of the Hindu, for instance, has always been the marigold.  The Chinese display as their national flower the gorgeous chrysanthemum.

The Assyrian proudly displayed the water lily.  Egyptian delighted most of all in the heliotrope; though the papyrus leaf, used by the ancient Egyptians in place of paper, may also be regarded in a high sense as the symbolic plant of the Nile.

The Greeks and Romans were in the habit of distributing the flowers in their luxurious gardens among their gods and demi-gods; just as in yet remoter times the sweet basil and moon-flower were sacred to Asiatic deities.

In the Roman custom, to Juno was devoted the lily, to Venus the myrtle and the rose, to Minerva, the olive and the violet; Diana had the dittany, Ceres the poppy, Mars the ash, Bacchus the grape leaf, Hercules the poplar, and Jupiter naturally the monarch of trees, the oak.

So we may infer that among the Roman, the lily and the oak were the emblems of power; the myrtle and the rose, of love; the olive and the violet of learning; the ash of war and the grape leaf of festivity.

Even the days of the week, as we use them now, are named from deities who each had its own special flower; the Sun (Sunday), the sunflower: the Moon (Monday), the daisy; Tuesday (the god’s Tui’s day), the violet; Wednesday (the god Woden’s day), the burdock; Friday (the goddess Frea’s day), the orchis; and Saturday (Saturn’s day), the horsetail.

We find also that in our time, the sacred days in the calendar of the English church have all their flower or plant emblems; the principal of which are, the holly for Christmas, the palm for Palm for Sunday, and the amaranth for All Saints day.

Monarchs and nations have often had their symbolic flowers.  The thistle is the emblem of Scotland and the Shamrock of Ireland.  The fleur-de-Lys is the badge of the royal house of France, and the amaranth of that of Sweden.  The rose bloom forever on the royal coat of arms of England. Finally as a proud Aussie the golden wattle is our national flower.

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