Flowers have had a wide range of different cultural meanings for thousands of years. More interestingly, they’ve had different meanings within the same cultures. Here are some historical facts about flowers that show just how long and varied their use in culture has been.
General historical flowers Facts
- Archaeologists have found evidence of flowers being used in prehistoric burial rituals, which really shows how long they’ve been used by people. The most definitive evidence came from a Neanderthal gravesite in Iraq, which contained fossilised flower pollen, and indicates that they were an important part of society.
- The Greeks loved flowers, with one of their favourites being carnations. They used carnations in crowns, and the flower’s name either comes from the colour (carnis) or their role in ceremonies that celebrated deities (incarnation).
- Daisies are thought to have been used by humans for over 4 millennia. Golden hairpins in the same of daisies were found in a Minoan palace, and there have been plenty of Egyptian pots painted with daisies.
English flowers History
There’s no way we could list historical facts about flowers without covering some of the most important English flowers, namely the rose.
- One of the most famous wars in English history is the War of the Roses, which lasted from 1455 to 1487. The war was fought between the Houses of Lancaster and York, both of which used roses as their symbol. They descended from the same line, hence the shared symbol (and the war itself). The Tudors, who eventually won, combined the two roses to form their own house symbol.
- In Victorian times, society developed the “language” of flowers that we know today (their social meanings and correct occasions for wear). It became so important that perfumes were used to send messages about things like your marital status, family, and wealth.
European flowers History
There are plenty of historical facts about flowers from all over the world, but some of the best come from Europe.
- The Romans received roses from the Greeks, and the flower was so popular that the streets were lined with them during important festivals.
- Leo IX, a pope in the late 11th century, send golden roses to monarchs as a symbol of his approval.
- Lilies are a widely recognised symbol in Europe, and are closely associated with the Bible. The Virgin Mary is often referred to as a lily, and they symbolise fertility, chastity, and virtue.
- Holly bushes were an ancient pagan symbol, and became a way of warding off evil spirits, and as a defence against witchcraft. A sprig of holly is used as a symbol of peace in the Middle English romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one of the most famous medieval poems.
Flowers have enjoyed a long and varied use in culture, and there are more historical facts about flowers than can be written in one article. However, if you’re interested in the history of flowers, there’s been plenty of research on the subject, so have fun looking it up!