A flower is a flower is a flower. But in Victorian England, one of the most self-repressed societies in modern times, the practice of using flowers to communicate was developed. Over time a bouquet could visually speak of feelings and thoughts one could not or would not say in person to another particularly one you might be in love with. Of course anyone else familiar with the floral code could also know what the message was, or maybe even alter it…. sounds like a nice plot for a Victorian novel…

Several segments of society developed this language of flowers. The list below is probably incomplete and opinions may vary on this or that particular flower. They are not all edible by any means. If you want to read about edible flowers, click here for edible cultivated flowers, here for edible wild flowers.

And while we may say “how quaint” of the Victorians to put such meaning into individual species a shadow of that practice is still with us with certain flowers for certain occasions or certain flowers not used on certain occasionals such as never send carnations to a funeral but do send red roses on Valentine’s Day. Oddly the practice of sending a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day is only about a century old. The previous flower of choice was violets, which are still left on Chopin’s gave in Paris even in winter. The day Chopin was buried one of his students, Jane Sterling, bought all the violets she could find in Paris to cover is grave thus starting a tradition.  Here is the Language of Flowers.

Acacia: Secret love
Acanthus: Art
Aconite: Misanthropy
Agrimony: Thankfulness
Aloe: Grief
Almond: Promise
Amaranth (Globe): Immortal love
Amaryllis: Pride
Ambrosia: Love is reciprocated
Anemone: Forsaken, sickness, unfading love
Anggrek: Royalty
Apple blossom: Preference
Arborvitae: Everlasting friendship
Arbutus: “You’re the only one I love”
Arum: Ardor
Asparagus: Fascination
Asphodel: My regrets follow you to the grave
Aster: Symbol of love, daintiness, talisman of love,trusting
Azalea: Take Care, temperance, fragile, passion, Chinese symbols of womanhood
Baby’s breath: Innocence, pure of heart
Bachelor button: Single blessedness, celibacy
Balm: Social intercourse or sympathy
Balsam: Ardent love
Balsamine: Impatience
Bay wreath: Glory
Bumblebee Orchid: Industry
Begonia: Beware, a fanciful nature
Bellflower: “Thinking of you”
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: Fascination; distinction; love. Red carnation: Deep romantic love, passion, “My heart aches for you,” “Alas; for my poor heart!” Green: secret symbol of the followers of Oscar Wilde. White: Sweet and lovely, innocence, pure love, faithfulness. Pink: A woman’s love, a mother’s love, “I’ll never forget you,” “Always on my mind. Yellow: rejection, disdain, “You have disappointed me.” Purple: Capriciousness, whimsical, changeable, unreliability. Mauve: Dreams of fantasy. Striped: No, refusal, “Sorry I can’t be with you.” Solid color: Yes, affirmative.
Celandine: Joys to come
Cherry blossom: A good education, Transience of life, Wabi-sabi, gentleness, kindness (in Japan)
Feminine beauty (in China)
Chestnut: “Do me justice”
China aster: Love of variety, fidelity, “I will think of you”
Chrysanthemum. Red: “I love.” Yellow: lighted love.
Coreopsis: Always cheerful
Cowslip: Winning grace
Clover: Red: Industry. White: “I promise”
Coriander: Lust
Cypress: Death, mourning, despair, sorrow.
Daffodil: Uncertainty, chivalry, respect or unrequited love
Dahlia: Elegance and dignity
Daisy: Innocence, loyal love, purity, faith, cheer, simplicity. Red: Beauty unknown to possessor
Dandelion: Coquetry
Delphinium: The ability to transcend the bounds of space and time.
Eglantine Rose: A wound to heal
Elderflower: Compassion
Fennel: Strength or, as in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, flattery and deceit
Forget-me-not: True love
Fungus: Resilience, loneliness, solitude, disgust
Gardenia: You’re lovely, secret love, joy, sweet love, good luck
Geranium: Gentility
Gladiolus: One means strength and moral integrity, a bunch of them means infatuation
Gorse: Love in all seasons
Grass: Submission
Heliotrope: Devotion
Hibiscus: Rare beauty, delicate beauty
Hollyhock:  Ambition
Honeysuckle:  Devoted affection, bonds of love
Houseleek:  Domestic economy
Hydrangea:  Frigidness, heartlessness
Iris:  Good news
Ivy:  Dependence, endurance
Jonquil:  “Return my affection”
Laurestine:  A token
Lavender:  Devotion, distrust
Lemon blossom:  Discretion
Lettuce:  Cold-hearted
Lichen:  Solitude
Lilac: Purple,  first emotion of love. White,  youthful innocence, memories
Lily: White, purity. Scarlet, high-souled aspirations, orange, desire, passion
Lily of the Valley:  Sweetness, Humility, Returning Happiness, Trustworthy
Lime Blossom: Fornication
Lobelia:  Malevolence
Lotus:  Purity, chastity and eloquence
Love lies bleeding:  Hopelessness
Magnolia:  Love of nature
Mallow: Consumed by love
Marigold:  Pain and grief
Mayflower: Welcome
Mignonette:  Worth
Mint:  Suspicion
Moonflower:  Dreaming of love
Morning glory:  Love in vain
Mullein:  Good-nature
Nasturtium:  Patriotism
Oak leaf:  Strength
Oats:  Music
Olive:  Peace
Orchid:  Refined beauty
Ox eye daisy:  Patience
Peach blossom:  Long-life, generosity, and bridal hope
Pear blossom:  Lasting friendship
Peony:  Shame, bashfulness,  Prosperity, honor (in China)  Masculinity, bravery (in Japan)
Pitch pine blossom:  Philosophy
Plum blossom:  Beauty and longevity
Plumeria:  Perfection, springtime, new beginnings
Primrose:  Eternal love
Poppy:  Eternal sleep, oblivion, imagination. Red, pleasure, white, consolation, dreams, modern, peace. Yellow
wealth, success.
Rose: red, true love. Blue,  Mystery, attaining the impossible, love at first sight. White, eternal love, silence or innocence, wistfulness, virtue, purity, secrecy, reverence and humility. Black, death, hatred, farewell, rejuvenation or rebirth. Yellow, friendship, jealousy, infidelity, or apology, a broken heart, intense emotion, dying love, extreme betrayal. Pink, grace. Dark pink, gratitude. Light pink, desire, passion, joy of life, youth, energy
burgundy,  unconscious beauty. Coral or orange, desire, passion. Lavender (violet) love at first sight. Red and white together, united. 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
Viscaria (Lychnis viscaria):  Invitation to dance
Willow (creeping):  Love forsaken
Winged seeds (any kind):  Messengers
Witch-hazel:  A magic spell
Wheat:  Wealth and prosperity

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