Flower Information Meaning & Symbolism

Ten Flowers in Mythology and Their Meaning

Flowers and Their Meanings

Anyone who’s ever received a beautiful Bouq as a gift knows it can be a powerful gesture of gratitude, accomplishment, and affection. But a look at flowers in mythology can clarify just why flowers are so popular in so many of the world’s traditions, from Hawaiian leis to funeral flowers.

Flowers have long entangled themselves with culture and myths. The ancient Greeks held a flower festival in early Spring in honor of Dionysus, the god of fertility, wine, fruit, and ecstasy. The Romans held a flower festival in early May in honor of Flora, their goddess of flowers. In Japan, Spring was marked by cherry blossom festivals since at least the 8th century.

In fact, the symbolism of flowers in literature and legends reveals a whole language of flowers you never knew you were speaking! Below, we’ll explore some of the most common mythological flowers and their meanings.


Rose bouquets come with rich folklore around the world, but we all know the most enduring rose symbolism has to do with love and beauty. Perhaps not surprisingly, many rose myths come from Greece – home of the goddess of love, Aphrodite.
Mythological life forms seem to always be springing from blood, tears, or the elements, and flowers in mythology are no different: One Greek legend says that the first roses grew from Aphrodite’s tears, and another says they got their red color from the blood from Aphrodite’s foot when she stepped on a thorn dropped by Cupid. Another story says the rose was created by Chloris, a nymph who became the flower goddess Flora and is thought to have transformed fallen heroes into some of the other flowers in this list.

Outside of Greek mythology, roses symbolize purity and motherly love, and are often associated with the Virgin Mary.

Lotus Flower

The lotus flower holds a special role in Asian mythology. It’s often called the sacred lotus. Confucius wrote, “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.” In Buddhism, the lotus stands for the purity of mind and body and legend has it that Gautama Buddha’s first steps caused sacred lotus flowers to appear. According to yoga traditions, the lotus represents the potential of individuals to harmonize their inner energy through their chakras.


A member of the lily family, the hyacinth flower gets its very name from a myth – in this case, the beautiful Spartan Hyacinthus.
As told by the Greek god Apollo, who loved Hyacinth, the two were playing a truly bromantic game of discus when the discus accidentally struck Hyacinthus and killed him. Some versions of the story say the discus was blown awry by the wind god Zephyr, who also loved Hyacinthus (and clearly needed to work out some jealousy issues). As Apollo wept over Hyacinthus, a flower sprang from the ground where he’d died, and Apollo named it after him.


In China, the peony has variously been called the King of Flowers and the Queen of Flowers for thousands of years. One legend has it that an Empress magically decreed all the flowers in her imperial garden to bloom. They all obeyed except the peony. After this defiance, the Empress banished the peony to the coldest reaches of the empire. Yet, the peonies still thrived and produced gorgeous blossoms. Thus, the Empress allowed the peonies to return, and thereafter they earned the title of Queen of Flowers.

Li Bai, a legendary Chinese poet during the Tang Dynasty, famously wrote, “Floating clouds remind me of her clothes, and peonies her face.” Peonies earned their reputation for representing fame, prosperity, strength, and longevity.


The daffodil is another name for the narcissus, itself named for the Greek figure at the center of its origin story. Narcissus is said to have fallen in love with his own handsome reflection, as punishment from the gods for his selfishness and ignorance of the nymph, Echo, who loved him. Narcissus wasted away in front of his reflection, and when he died, the narcissus flower sprouted up in his place. In mythology, the narcissus now represents both vanity and unrequited love. So not only did Narcissus lend his name to the symbolism of flowers in literature and myth, but also to ghosts everywhere.

In another cold move to an innocent lady, the narcissus is believed to have been the flower that distracted Persephone when she was abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld.


The chrysanthemum’s relationship to mythology goes back millennia. Associated with Japan and China, each culture has a different myth associated with how they came to be found in Japan. Chinese legend holds that about 3,000 years ago, an emperor believed that a magic herb existed on Dragonfly Island in the Sunrise Sea (Japan). It was reputed that only youth could collect this magical herb. So the emperor sent a dozen young men and a dozen young women to the island with golden chrysanthemums to trade for the magic herb. Finding no magic herb, these youths stayed on the island and cultivated the chrysanthemum.

According to Japanese legend, the god Izanagi and the goddess, Izanami, were sent to Earth. Izanami then created the gods of the mountains, seas, and winds. She dyed upon the creation of the god of fire. Missing his partner, Izanagi then traveled to the land of Black Night to try to recover Izanami yet he couldn’t find her and was chased by the Old Hag of Black Night. He eventually escaped back to earth and took a purification bath in the river. During this purification process, his jewels turned into flowers. His two bracelets became the iris and the lotus while his necklace became the chrysanthemum.


Of all the mythological flowers and their meanings, nothing embodies the Greek obsession with connecting flowers to male sexuality better than the orchid, whose very name comes from a Greek word for, ahem, certain man-parts. As such, the orchid in ancient Greece symbolized fertility and virility: fathers of unborn children were encouraged to eat large flowers if they desired a boy, and smaller ones if they desired a girl.

Cherry Blossoms

In Japanese folklore, the sakura, or cherry blossom, holds dual meanings. The sakura represents beauty and violence, birth and death. In the Shinto tradition, many ancient and/or beautiful trees are considered sacred. It is said that spirits inhabit these trees and they are called kodama. Many kodama are cherry trees and are wrapped with rope. Misfortune will befall anyone who cuts the rope signifying these special trees.
Kodama can have their own myths associated with them. One famous cherry tree is called the Uba-zakura, or Milk Nurse Cherry Tree. It’s said this tree blossoms on the anniversary of when a devoted wet nurse sacrificed her life to protect the child under her care. Her soul lives on in the Uba-zakura tree.


The anemone, sometimes called the “wind flower” and belonging to the same family as the uber-hip ranunculus, also has rich folklore stemming from – who else? – the Greeks.

The story goes that Adonis, the huge crush of goddesses everywhere, was killed by a wild boar while hunting. In keeping with the Greek tradition of blaming flowers in mythology on the deaths of hotties, the anemone is said to have sprung up where Adonis’ blood had spilled. Other versions of the story say the anemone was a white flower already in bloom, but turned red from Adonis’ blood.


While carnations are associated with several different meanings, one of the most common is that of death. You may have seen crowns of carnations worn during Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations, for example.

But elsewhere, carnations symbolize everything from luck to motherly love. There is a wealth of flower symbolism in Asia as well. In some cases, the color of the flower determines its meaning: some use white carnations to celebrate a mother who has died, whereas pink represents love and affection.

Send a Bouquet with Mythological Meaning

Mythological flowers and their meanings add an additional layer of rich significance to the gifts we give each other every day – and, of course, entertain us with fantastical stories of love and loss. You don’t need rare and unusual flowers to let someone know you’re thinking of them. So next time you’re enjoying that perfect birthday or wedding Bouq, be grateful to all the gods who gave them their meanings.

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