The symbolism of flowers has a rich history stemming from a wide range of cultures and stories. The meaning of orchids is no different and grew from a variety of cultural significances, from ancient Greece to the Victorian Era, and ancient Chinese medicine to modern-day Japan. Go on a journey with our floral experts here at Flowers by Mike, the top florist in Oceanside and East Rockaway, as we discover the beautiful symbols behind the orchid.
Before we set sail, let’s go back to the mid-1750s when Peter Osbeck, a Swedish naturalist, mistook the common Phalaenopsis Orchid for a cluster of moths, dubbing it “the moth orchid.” Even as the orchid was officially named, this nickname remained. The genus name “orchid” comes from the Greek word meaning “testicles,” influenced by the bloom’s appearance. “Cymbidium Orchid” is a product from the Greek word “kymbos,” describing the boat-shaped lip of this particular plant. Finally, the “Dendrobium Orchid” translates to “life in a tree” in the Greek language.
Cultural Symbolism and Uses of Orchids
As its name suggests, orchids have been linked to fertility and virility since ancient times. The Greek men who consumed the large tuberous roots believed they would soon have a son. When the Greek women consumed the smaller orchid roots, they were said to give birth to a daughter. Today, orchids are still a symbol of fertility. Pink orchids prove to be a perfect bloom to celebrate new mothers, growing families, and even newlyweds.
Orchids were once seen as a means to obtain great power and strength in the ancient Aztec culture. Warriors utilized vanilla orchids and chocolate to create an elixir that was thought to bring such power, strength, and courage to those who drank it. Today, the meaning of orchids still includes its symbolism of power and strength, and courage is also linked to the symbolism behind vibrant red orchids.
It has been said that the Victorian Era suffered “orchidelirium” after Charles Darwin published his work on orchid fertilization in 1862. During this time, the wealthiest families could not get their hands on enough rare, beautiful, and admired flowering plants. Orchids suddenly became a symbol of refinement, luxury, opulence, and elegance. Today, these symbols remain a large part of the orchid’s meaning.
While a wide variety of herbs, spices, and plants have been used in Chinese medicine, Dendrobium Orchids were among the most popular. As a common ingredient for remedies to aid in stomach deficiencies, eye diseases, kidney ailments, lung diseases, and coughs, orchids represent good health and good luck. Orchids today remain a symbol of such and are a wonderful bloom for those in recovery or battling an illness.
Like many symbols and icons that are shared between cultures, the “legends” or explanations behind that of the orchid differ. In Japanese culture, these fantastic blooms still represent fertility, strength, power, luxury, and good fortune but not because of the Aztec elixirs or an “orchidelirium.” Because these rare flowers are able to survive and thrive in a wide range of habitats, from mountains to plains, and exotic places, this represents their luxurious and rich life, strength, and power. Many Japanese offices and homes will have orchids on display as they believe these plants are sure to bring fertility, which translates to good fortune in both business and everyday life.
Orchids today remain a symbol of strength, charm, refinement, luxury, love, fertility, beauty, and thoughtfulness. Although they’re not the first ingredient in modern medicines or elixirs, orchids are a popular fragrance for perfumes and beauty products. From Phalaenopsis and Cymbidiums to Dendrobium Orchids, these blooms prove to be the perfect gift for just about any occasion. Find the freshest blooms and loveliest orchids here at Flowers by Mike.