The Magnolia Flower: Its Meanings and Symbolism
People have loved magnolias for thousands of years. They love them so much that they argue over just how many magnolia species there are. According to the Magnolia Society International, there are currently over 200 species. New species and varieties are being developed all of the time. Each variety is stunningly beautiful with large, fragrant petals.
What Does the Magnolia Flower Mean?
- Magnolia meanings depend on the color of the flower and the immediate culture of the person giving and receiving the flowers. Usually, magnolias are given as presents from men to women as if the men are saying, “You are worthy of a beautiful magnolia.”
- A magnolia often symbolizes Yin, or the feminine side of life.
- White magnolias symbolize purity and dignity.
Etymological Meaning of the Magnolia Flower
Once upon a time, there was a French botanist by the name of Pierre Magnol (1638 – 1715). He helped scientists determine that plants came in families and not just species. Guess who magnolias are named after?
The Chinese began naming magnolias long before the 1600s. What taxonomists and botanists call Magnolia officialis since the 1600s, the Chinese have been calling hou po.
Symbolism of the Magnolia Flower
There seem to be as many symbol interpretations about magnolias as there are people who love magnolias:
- In Victorian times, sending flowers was a discreet way of lovers sending messages to each other. Magnolias symbolized dignity and nobility.
- In ancient China, magnolias were thought to be the perfect symbols of womanly beauty and gentleness.
- In the American South, white magnolias are commonly seen in bridal bouquets because the flowers are thought to reflect and emphasize the bride’s purity and nobility.
Magnolia Flower Facts
Magnolias may seem ever present but they are definitely not commonplace plants. Here are a few interesting things about magnolias:
- Magnolias grow on trees, not vines, bushes or on stalks. These trees can live for a full century.
- Magnolias cannot pollinate without the help of beetles. Their bright and sweet-smelling flowers help attract these beetles.
- Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) became the state flower of Mississippi in 1952.
- The fragrant magnolia, also called Siebold’s magnolia (Magnolia sieboldii) is North Korea’s national flower.
Magnolia Flower Color Meanings
Although magnolias are most seen with white petals, some species come in pink, yellow or purple. In modern Paganism and Wicca, colors of flowers are used in spells for petitioning certain goddesses.
- White: represents the moon, any lunar goddess and for spells cast on Mondays
- Yellow: represents the sun, any solar goddess or god and for spells case on Sundays
- Pink: represents the feminine, friends and love. Spells using pink flowers are best cast on Friday, the day belonging to love goddesses like Venus or Aphrodite.
- Purple: associated with royalty since Roman times, is best for spells dealing with governments.
Meaningful Botanical Characteristics of the Magnolia Flower
Magnolia flowers and bark have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Today, magnolia flowers and bark can be found in pills, powders, teas or tinctures. Unfortunately, there have been few clinical studies done on medical magnolias. Be very careful when using any herbal medication with magnolia for the first time. Pregnant women should not ingest any alternative medicine containing magnolia. Pollen can get mixed into any preparation with magnolia herbs or flowers so anyone with a pollen allergy should stay away from herbal cures containing magnolia.
Magnolia is traditionally thought to help with:
- Lung problems
- Congestion in the chest
- Runny nose
- Menstrual cramps
- Relaxing muscles
- Digestive upsets like gas and constipation
In Russia, herbalists often prepare magnolia tree bark by soaking it in vodka. No wonder the patients often feel better.
The Magnolia Flower’s Message
Magnolias are thought to be one of the first flowering plants to evolve on Earth. According to the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, fossil remains show that magnolias were around some for 100 million years. Basically all magnolias follow the same blueprint. Ancient magnolias are still recognizable today as magnolias. Clearly, magnolias have found a great way to survive. Who knows? They may even survive long after human begins become extinct. Therefore, a magnolia means stability and grace through the ever changing ages.