Valentines’ Day brings to mind many images. Chocolate, candlelit dinners, sweet cards, romantics gestures, perhaps agony and dread too! But flowers top the list. So what does the flower represent in other cultures and what are the national floral emblems around the world?
With flowers mirroring the seasons and reflecting the passage of time, flower growing and viewing is a super popular activity around the world. In Japanese culture, for example, one of the largest celebrations of the year surrounds the cherry blossoms blooming. In Polynesian cultures, such as in Hawaii where you get “lei’d” with a string of pikake, tuberose or plumeria flowers, the lei is something that is given to another with the intent to decorate that person for an emotional reason—usually as a sign of affection or welcoming.
For many around the world, flowers are not just beautiful to look at but provide critical healing, going back to ancient traditional medicine. In fact, The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as much as 80 percent of the population in many Asian and African countries presently use herbal remedies and flowers for their primary health care.
Have a friend or lover from Thailand and want to gift them a bouquet of their national flowers? Might be difficult to find depending on where you are in the world. Looking to buy flowers for an American amor? You’ll have a pretty easy time finding the National Flower of the U.S. Have a French lover to impress? You’ll find their flower emblem relatively easily!
Here’s a list of some National Flower Emblems:
Guess the Cherry Blossom (Sakura) is the National Flower of Japan? So did we. But it’s actually the yellow Chrysanthemum, which adorns the Japanese Imperial family’s crest (inherited from generation to generation) and was once the symbol for a great Japanese Emperor.
There’s some confusion as to which of two is the true official flower of China, so we’re going with the dual-flower answer: the peony is a shrub that blooms in late spring and early summer, producing fragrant single or double-clustered flowers in pink, white or red. The peony is considered a symbol of prosperity. The other is the plum blossom, often depicted in Chinese art and pottery. The flowers appear in late winter and are typically deep pink, red or white. According to Chinese culture, the plum blossom symbolizes the indomitable spirit of the nation.
The Golden Wattle (otherwise known as Acacia pycnantha) blooms in spring, (in Australia that means beginning in September) and has large fluffy, yellow, sweet smelling flower heads, each comprised of a bunch of tiny flowers. About 1300 species of Acacia abound worldwide, with about 950 of them being native to Australia. The Golden Wattle features prominently on the Australian coat of arms. Australia celebrates Wattle Day on September 1.
The rose was designated the official flower and floral emblem of the U.S. in 1986. The flower family itself has been around for some 35 million years and grows naturally throughout North America in all sizes, colors, and shapes. Rose petals and rose hips are edible and have been used for their healing properties in medicines since ancient times.
There is no national flower of Canada, but the floral symbol of the country is the Maple Leaf.
The dahlia, an herbaceous perennial native to Mexico, Central America and Colombia, was declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963. There are at least 36 species and dahlias contain many transposons, genetic pieces that move from place to place upon an allele—which contributes to their manifesting such great diversity. Like most plants that do not attract pollinating insects, they are brightly colored, displaying most hues, with the exception of blue.
The flowers of the Cassia fistula, known as the golden shower tree, are the national flower of Thailand. Native to southern Asia and known for its use in medicine to treat a variety of diseases, flowering is profuse, with trees blanketed with yellow flowers, many times with almost no leaf being seen.
The King Protea is a flowering plant whose flower head is the largest in the “Protea” family: the species is also known as the Honeypot or King Sugar Bush. The artichoke-like appearance of the flower-heads are stunning, growing a number of varieties in color and leaf shapes, most popular being pink. The flower has a long vase life in flower arrangements, and makes for an excellent dried flower.
Cattleya labiata, also known as Corsage Orchid is the National Flower of Brazil. The flowers grow well in typical household temperatures, about 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 58 to 60 degrees at night. Because of their exceptional beauty and fragrance they are commonly called queen of the orchids.
The iris is the national flower of France, also represented in the Fleur-de-lis emblem. The fleur-de-lis has been used to represent French royalty since the 13th century and is said to signify perfection, light and life. In heraldic designs used by the French monarchy, the three petals also represented wisdom, faith and chivalry.
The tulip, derived from the Turkish word tulbend or turban, which the flower resembles, is the country’s national flower. Growing in a huge variety of bright colors, including white, yellow, pink, red, purple, orange, bi-colors and multi-colors, tulips are also considered “the King of Bulbs.” In Turkey they became an important emblem in the arts and folklore, with traditional embroidery and handwoven textile designs including tulip designs and shapes.
For a complete list of floral emblems around the world, head here.
POWER YOUR FLOWERS
The secret to keeping cut flowers looking good as long as possible is to minimize the growth of bacteria in the water and to provide nourishment to replace what the flower would have gotten had it not been cut.
To keep your Valentines’ flowers looking fresh and vibrant for longer, try one of the following tricks:
- Bleach – add 1/4 teaspoon bleach per quart (1 liter) of vase water, or 3 drops bleach and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 quart (1 liter) water. This will also keep the water from getting cloudy and inhibit the growth of bacteria.
- Coins – add a copper penny and a cube of sugar to the vase water.
- Aspirin – a tried-and-true way to keep roses and other cut flowers fresh longer: put a crushed aspirin in the water before adding flowers.
- Vodka – add a few drops of vodka (or any clear spirit) to the vase water for antibacterial action along with 1 teaspoon sugar.
Also, don’t forget to change the vase water every two to three days.
And before giving flowers this Valentines, it’s important to get fluent in the language of flowers. As illustrated beautifully in the book, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, each flower represents an emotion. For example, you might not want to give your beloved yellow roses – it says you’re either very jealous or your love is waning.
What’s your favorite flower to receive on Valentine’s Day? We’d love to hear it in the comment section below.
Lanee’s is anything but a red rose (she loves bucking the trend in nearly every part of life).
Lindsay agrees with Lanee on this. She loves getting lilies or wild flowers.