Floriography - The Kaloseidos Project
Floriography - The language of flowers : history and background
Floriography, Flowers, Language, Story,
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Floriography : History
The renewed Victorian era interest in the language of flowers finds its roots in Ottoman Turkey, specifically the court in Constantinople and an obsession it held with tulips during the first half of the 18th century. The Victorian use of flowers as a means of covert communication bloomed alongside a growing interest in botany.

The floriography craze was introduced to Europe by two people: Englishwoman Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762), who brought it to England in 1717, and Aubry de La Mottraye (1674–1743), who introduced it to the Swedish court in 1727. Joseph Hammer-Purgstall’s Dictionnaire du language des fleurs (1809) appears to be the first published list associating flowers with symbolic definitions, while the first dictionary of floriography appears in 1819 when Louise Cortambert, writing under the pen name ‘Madame Charlotte de la Tour,’ wrote Le langage des Fleurs.

Floriography was popularized in France about 1810–1850, while in Britain it was popular during the Victorian age (roughly 1820–1880), and in the United States about 1830–1850. La Tour’s book stimulated the publishing industry especially in France, England, and America, but also in Belgium, Germany, and other European countries as well as in South America. Publishers from these countries produced hundreds of editions of language of flowers books during the 19th century.

British floral dictionaries include Henry Phillips’ Floral Emblems published in 1825 and Frederic Shoberl’s The Language of Flowers; With Illustrative Poetry, in 1834. Shoberl was the editor of the popular annual “Forget Me Not” from 1822 to 1834. Robert Tyas was another popular British flower writer, publisher, and clergyman, who lived from 1811 to 1879; his book, The Sentiment of Flowers; or, Language of Flora, first published in 1836 and printed through the 1840s, was billed as an English version of Charlotte de la Tour’s book. One of the most familiar of the language of flower books is Routledge’s edition illustrated by Kate Greenaway, The Language of Flowers. First published in 1884, it continues to be reprinted to this day.

In the United States the first print appearance of the language of flowers was in the writings of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, a French-American naturalist, who wrote on-going features under the title “The School of Flora,” from 1827 through 1828, in the weekly Saturday Evening Post and the monthly Casket; or Flowers of Literature, Wit, and Sentiment. These pieces contained the botanic, English, and French names of the plant, a description of the plant, an explanation of its Latin names, and the flower’s emblematic meaning. However, the first books on floriography were Elizabeth Wirt’s Flora’s Dictionary and Dorothea Dix’s The Garland of Flora, both of which were published in 1829 (though Wirt’s book had been issued in an unauthorized edition in 1828).

During its peak in America, the language of flowers attracted the attention of the most popular women writers and editors of the day. Sarah Josepha Hale, longtime editor of the Ladies’ Magazine and co-editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, edited Flora’s Interpreter in 1832; it continued in print through the 1860s. Catharine H. Waterman Esling wrote a long poem titled, “The Language of Flowers” which first appeared in 1839 in her own language of flowers book, Flora’s Lexicon; it continued in print through the 1860s. Lucy Hooper, an editor, novelist, poet, and playwright, included several of her flower poems in The Lady’s Book of Flowers and Poetry, first published in 1841. Frances Sargent Osgood, a poet and friend of Edgar Allan Poe, first published The Poetry of Flowers and Flowers of Poetry in 1841, and it continued in print through the 1860s. Osgood also edited a special gift book, The Floral Offering, in 1847. Sarah Carter Edgarton Mayo, author of several flower books, was associate editor of the Universalist monthly The Ladies’ Repository in Boston from 1839 to 1842. Her book, The Flower Vase, was first published in 1844. She also edited the books Fables of Flora in 1844 and The Floral Fortune Teller in 1846. C. M. Kirtland is probably Caroline Matilda Kirkland, editor of the Union Magazine of Literature and Art from 1847 to 1851 and the Unitarian weekly Christian Inquirer from 1847 to 1852. First published in 1848, Kirkland’s Poetry of Flowers continued to be in print at least until 1886. One of the more comprehensive books, its 522 pages contain an extensive dictionary and numerous flower poems.


The significance assigned to specific flowers in Western culture varied — nearly every flower had multiple associations, listed in the hundreds of floral dictionaries — but a consensus of meaning for common blooms has emerged. Often, definitions derive from the appearance or behaviour of the plant itself. For example, the mimosa, or sensitive plant, represents chastity. This is because the leaves of the mimosa close at night, or when touched. Likewise, the deep red rose and its thorns have been used to symbolize both the blood of Christ and the intensity of romantic love, while the rose’s five petals are thought to illustrate the five crucifixion wounds of Christ. Pink roses imply a lesser affection, white roses suggest virtue and chastity, and yellow roses stand for friendship or devotion. The black rose (actually a very dark shade of red, purple, or maroon) has a long association with death and dark magic.

Language of flowers in literature

William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, and children’s novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett, among others, used the language of flowers in their writings.
Shakespeare used the word “flower” more than 100 times in his plays and sonnets. In Hamlet, Ophelia mentions and explains the symbolic meaning of pansies, rosemary, fennel, columbine, rue, daisy, and violets. In The Winter’s Tale, the princess Perdita wishes that she had violets, daffodils, and primroses to make garlands for her friends.



(Source : Wikipedia)

Flower months



January: In the north of the northern hemisphere, January is a cold and gloomy month, but in non-frozen areas, many flowers will bloom in the cool weather, and carnation is one of them. The flower associated with the month is Carnation and is said to symbolise love, fascination and distinction.Carnation, which is also commonly called Gillyflower is found in a number of colors from pink to purple-red.
– Capricorn –
December 22 – January 19
Poinsettia, Holly, Narcissus, Paperwhite, Carnation




Lily, Lily of the Valley

May: The month of May is associated with the Lily of the valley flower. It is generally white in colour. The flower conveys sweetness and humility. In the Victorian era, it was gifted to convey the romanticmessage ‘you have made my life complete’.

– Taurus –
Apr 20 – May 20
Daisy, Peonies, Lily, Lily of the Valley



July: Larkspur is the flower for July. With its simple form, feelings of open heart and ardent attachment are attributed to it.

– Cancer – Jun 21 – Jul 22
Rose, Delphinium


Aster, Forget-me-not

September: Aster or September flower is the flower for this month. It is found in a number of colours – pink, red, white, lilac and mauve. The name of the flower which looks like a star is derived from the Greek word for star. The flower symbolises love, faith, wisdom and colour.

– Virgo –
Aug 23 – Sep 22
Dahlia, Gladiolus, Aster, Forget-me-not



November: Chrysanthemum, which stands for cheerfulness and love, is associated with the month of November. According to Feng Shui, Chrysanthemums brings happiness and laughter in the house.

– Scorpio –
Oct 23 – Nov 21
Calendula (aka Marigold), Chrysanthemum
Enumerated below are flowers of the month and their special meanings which are associated with specific months. It would be a helpful guide for gifting flowers for someone’s birthday. The language of flowers was introduced to England in the early 18th century by Mary Wortley, Lady Montague, whose husband was Ambassador to Turkey.


Iris, Violet

February: This month is associated with St. Valentine’s Day and red roses. However, the flower for the month is Violet. The flower symbolises faithfulness, humility and chastity. Gifting violets in the Victorian era conveyed the message’ I’ll always be true’. The flower is found in shades of blue, mauve as well as yellow and cream. One must remember that an older English name for the plant is “heartease.”

– Aquarius –
January 20 – February 18
Carnation, Iris, Violet


Daisy, Peonies

April: This month is associated with Sweet pea flower which bloom in a wide range of soft colors as well as two tone colours. It is said to symbolise pleasure or good-bye. In the Victorian era, these flowers formed a part of the bouquet which was sent to someone to convey gratefulness.

– Aries –
Mar 21 – Apr 19
Daffodil, Daisy, Peonies



June: Rose is the flower of this month. Though roses are available in many colors from red to pink to white to yellow, all with their own special meanings, the underlying message the flowers convey is that of love and passion.


– Gemini –
May 21 – Jun 20
Lily, Lily of the Valley,


Dahlia, Gladiolus

August: The flower for this month is the Gladiolus. It blooms in a variety of colours like red, pink, white, yellow and orange. It stands for sincerity and symbolises strength of character.


– Leo –
Jul 23 – Aug 22
Delphinium, Dahlia, Gladiolus


Calendula (aka Marigold)

October: Marigold or Calendula is the flower associated with October. For the Hindus, the month of October is associated with festivals like Dusshera and Diwali and Marigold, an auspicious flower is part of religious ceremonies. However, in the English culture, marigold stands for sorrow and sympathy.

– Libra –
Sep 23 – Oct 22
Aster, Forget-me-not, Calendula (aka Marigold)


Poinsettia, Holly, Narcissus, Paperwhite

December: Narcissus, These flowers symbolize sweetness

– Sagittarius –
November 22 – December 21
Chrysanthemum, Poinsettia, Holly, Narcissus, Paperwhite

Spiritual meanings of flowers
Acacia: immortality of the soul
Acanthus: heavenly garden. One of the oldest cemetery motifs, acanthus is associated with the rock ground where most ancient Greek cemeteries were placed. It is the most common motif found on memorials.
Anemone: garden: Forsaken.
Almond: flowering: Hope.
Balm: Sympathy.
Bamboo: The emblem of Buddha. The seven-knotted bamboo denotes the seven degrees of initiation and invocation in Buddhism. On Japanese memorials, symbolic of devotion and truthfulness.
Bay leaf: I change but in death.
Bell flower: white: Gratitude.
Bluebell: Constancy.
Broken flower: A life terminated, mortality.
Buttercup: Cheerfulness.
Calla lily: Symbolises marriage.
Campanula: Gratitude.
Carnation, red: Beauty always new
Chrysanthemum: I love.
Clover, white: Think of me.
Clover, four-leaved: Be mine.
Cinquefoil: maternal affection, beloved daughter.
Convolvulus, major: Extinguished hopes or eternal sleep.
Coreopsis, Arkansa: Love at first sight.
Corn (Garbe): It was a country custom to send a sheaf to relatives on the death of a farmer. It may be used as an occupational symbol.
Crocus: Youthful gladness.
Cuckoo Pint: Ardour.
Cypress tree: Designates hope.
Daffodil: Death of youth, desire, art, grace, beauty, deep regard.
Daisy: Innocence of child, Jesus the Infant, youth, the Son righteousness, gentleness, purity of thought.
Daisy, garden: I share your sentiment.
Dead leaves: Sadness, melancholy.
Dogwood: Christianity, divine sacrifice, triumph of eternal life, resurrection.
Fern: Sincerity, sorrow.
Figs, Pineapples: Prosperity, eternal life.
Fleur-de-lis: Flame, passion, ardour, mother.
Flower: frailty of life.
Forget-me-not: Remembrance / true love.
Furze or Gorse: Enduring affection.
Grapes: represent Christ.
Grapes and leaves: Christian faith.
Harebell: Grief.
Hawthorn: Hope, merriness, springtime.
Heartsease or Pansy: I am always thinking of you.
Holly: Foresight.
Honeysuckle: Bonds of love, generosity and devoted affection.
Honesty: Sincerity.
Ivy: Memory, immortality, friendship, fidelity, faithfulness, undying affection, eternal life, marriage.
Jonquil: “I hope for a return of affection.”
Lalla: Beauty, marriage.
Laurel leaves: Special achievement, distinction, success, triumph.
Lily: Majesty, innocence, purity, and resurrection. Often associated with the Virgin Mary and resurrection. Often used on women’s graves. The use of lilies at funerals symbolizes the restored innocence of the soul at death.
Lily of the valley: Return of happiness, purity, humility.
Marigold: Grief or despair.
Morning glory: Resurrection, mourning, youth, farewell, brevity of life, departure, mortality.
Mystic rose: Mother.
Oak tree: Hospitality, stability, strength, honour, eternity, endurance, liberty. It is believed to have been the tree from which Jesus Christ’s cross was made. In smaller pioneer cemeteries, it is common to place children’s graves near oak trees. The oak tree was the tree of life in pre-Christian times. The Druids worshipped the oak. The oak, oak leaves and acorn can stand for power, authority or victory. Often seen on military tombs.
Passion flower: The elements of the passion of Christ: the lacy crown; the crown of thorns; the five stamens; the five wounds; the 10 petals; the 10 faithful Apostles
Pears: Affection.
Pineapple: Hospitality, good host.
Palm: Spiritual victory, success, eternal peace, a symbol of Christ’s victory of death as associated with Easter.
Pansy: Symbolises remembrance and humility.
Pine: Fertility, regeneration, fidelity.
Poppy: Peace, rest, sleep, eternal sleep, consolation (red poppies).
Rose: Love, beauty, hope, unfailing love, associated with the Virgin Mary, the “rose without thorns.” There were many verities of rose, each with a special meaning, eg. A cabbage rose was ‘an ambassador of love’ and a white rose ‘I am worthy of you’. Also on commemorative pieces as the symbol of England. A red rose symbolizes martyrdom and a white rose symbolizes purity and virginity. Whether the rose is a bud, flower or somewhere in between indicates how old the person was at the time of death:
Just a bud: Normally a child 12 or under.
Partial bloom: Normally a teenager.
Full bloom: Normally in early/mid twenties. The deceased died in the prime of life.
Rosebud, broken: Life cut short, usually found with a young person’s grave.
Rosebuds, joining: Strong bond between two people (e.g., mother and child who died at the same time)
Rosebuds, several on same branch: Secrecy
Rosette: The Lord, messianic hope, promise, love.
Wreath of Rose: Beauty and virtue rewarded.
Rosemary: Remembrance.
Sage: Domestic virtue.
Shamrock: Light-heartedness. Also on jewellery as the national symbol of Ireland, sometimes with an Irish harp.
Snowdrop: Hope.
Star of Bethlehem: Purity.
Sweet William: Gallantry.
Thistle: Earthly sorrow, Christ’s crown of thorns, Scotland as country of origin.
Tree: The all-covering love of Christ. Life, the Tree of Life.
Severed branch: Mortality
Sprouting: Life everlasting.
Tulip, red: Declaration of love.
Violet, blue: Faithfulness.
Vine: The sacraments, God’s blood, God.
Weeping willow: Nature’s lament, a symbol of sorrow and mourning.
Wheat: Resurrection, bread and wine (Christian), fertility / Riches of the continuation of life.
Bushel: Body of Christ
Sheaves: The divine harvest, often represents the aged.
White lily: Purity and modesty.
Wreath or garland: The use of garlands, wreaths and festoons dates back to ancient Greek times and it was adopted into the Christian religion as a symbol of the victory of the redemption.
The laurel wreath is usually associated with someone who has attained distinction in the arts, literature, athletics or the military. The ivy wreath is symbolic of conviviality (gaiety or joviality). The wreath and festoon together symbolise memory.
Ancient symbol of victory. memory, passed to eternal life.
Bridal: may signify the grave of a young bride or groom.
Maiden’s garland: A garland of white paper or linen, embellished with streamers and a single white glove, which was carried at the funerals of unmarried women of blameless reputation. The garlands were hung in the church after the funeral and allowed to decay. Then the pieces would be buried in the graveyard.
Yew tree: sadness, eternal life / sorrow

Flower Countries

Antigua & Barbuda
Dagger’s Log (Agave Karatto Miller)

Ceibo (Erythrina crista-galli)

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha)

Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum)

Yellow Elder or Yellow Cedar (Tecoma stans)

Balearic Islands
Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)

Water Lily (Nymehaea nouchali)

Pride of Barbados, also known as Dwarf Poinciana & Flower Fence (Poinciana pulcherrima

Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Red Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Black Orchid (Trichoglottis brachiata)

Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum)

Blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia)

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Kantuta (Cantua buxifolia)

The Ipê-Amarelo (Tecoma Chrysostricha)

British Columbia
Dogwood Tree Flower (Cornus Nuttalli)

Rose ( Rosa )

Maple Leaf

Cayman Islands
Wild Banana Orchid (Schomburgkia thomsoniana)

Copihue/Chilean Bellflower (Lapageria rosea)

Tree Peony

Christmas orchid (Cattleya trianae)

Costa Rica
Guaria Morada (purple orchid) (cattleya skinneri)

Iris Croatica (Hrvatska Perunika)

Butterfly Jasmine (Mariposa)

Rose ( Rosa )

Czech Republic
Rose ( Rosa )

Red Clover

Rose ( Rosa )

Lotus (Nymphaea lotus)

Corn-flower or Bachelor’s Button Centaurea (cyanus)

Calla Lily

Iris (Fleur-de-lis)
French Polynesia
The Tiare (Gardenia taitensis)

Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)


Willow Herb (Epilobium)

Puti Tai Nobiu (Bougainvillea spectabilis)

White Nun Orchid, or Monja Blanca (Lycaste skinnerialba)

Water Lily ( Victoria regia)

Tulip (Tulipa)

Orchid (Brassavola digbiana)

Hong Kong
Orchid Tree (Bauhinia blakeana)

Tulip (Tulipa)

Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala)

Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

1) Melati (Jasmine) (Jasminum sambac) 2)Moon Orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis) 3)Rafflesia (Rafflesia arnoldi Indonesia )

Tulip (Genus Tulipa)

Rose ( Rosa )


Stylized Lily

Lignum Vitae, or Wood of Life (Guaiacum sanctum)

Chrysanthemum (imperial), Cherry Blossom Sakura

Black Iris (Iris nigricans)

Champa Flower(Calophyllum Inophyllum), also known as plumeria.

Lily(Lilium) serves as the Unofficial National Flower.

Rhanterum epapposum, or locally called Arfaj.

Shyrdak Symbols of Kyrgyzstan and also the Tulip.

Oxeye Daisy, or Pipene (Leucanthemum vulgare)


Pomegranate blossom

Rue,or Herb of Grace (Ruta graveolens)

Rose ( Rosa )

Poinciana (Delonix regia)

Pink Rose ( Rosa )

The Maltese Centaury Paleocyanus crasifoleus




New Zealand





Kantuta, Inca magic flower

Sampaguita (Jasminum sambac)

Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)


Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican Hibiscus,or Flor de maga (montezuma speciossisima)

Rose ( Rosa canina)

Camomile (Matricaria Recutita)

San Marino
Cyclamen (Cyclamen)

Thistle (Cirsium altissimum)

Tropicbird Orchid

Vanda Miss Joaquim Orchid

Rose ( Rosa )

Carnation(Dianthus caryophyllus)

Red carnation

Sri Lanka
Nil Mahanel Water Lily (Nympheae Stellata)

S. Africa
Protea (Protea cynaroides)

Rose of Sharon (Moogoonghwa) (Hibiscus syriacus)

Linnea (Linnea Borealis)

Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum)


Taiwan (Republic of China)
Plum blossom (Prunus mei)


Trinidad and Tobago
Chaconia (Warszewiczia coccinea)

Red-blossomed heilala

Tulip (Tulipa)

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

United States of America
Rose (Rosa)

Tudor Rose (Rosa)

Ceibo Erythrina (crista-galli)



Virgin Islands
Yellow Elder or Yellow Trumpet (Tecoma stans)

Leek and Daffodil

Flame Lily (Gloriosa Rothschildiana)o.