The Orchid Flower, Its Meanings and Symbolism
Orchids are the largest family of blooming flowers with over 25,000 species and over 100,000 varieties. They are often grown as houseplants, or added to floral displays. But, not all orchids are tropical beauties. Wild orchids grow worldwide and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. These flowers have earned the reputation as difficult to grow, probably due to their need for filtered light and high relative humidity. Many varieties, such as the moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) are surprisingly easy to grow as a houseplant.
What Does the Orchid Flower Mean?
The orchid has been held in high regard since ancient times. It symbolizes
Etymological Meaning of the Orchid Flower
Orchids (Orchidaceae family) earned their name from the Greek word orchis, meaning testicle. Their fleshy underground tubers were thought to resemble testicles, at least that’s what Greek botanist Theophrastos thought at the time.
The phalaenopsis orchids, commonly referred to as moth orchids, earned their name from mistaken identity. When Swedish Naturalist Peter Osbeck spied them in his field glasses while visiting Java in the mid-1750s, he thought they were a cluster of moths. Although they were not officially named for another 75 years, the common name Osbeck spied them in his field glasses while visiting Java in the mid-1750s, he thought they were a cluster of moths. Although they were not officially named for another 75 years, the common name moth orchid has endured.
Symbolism of the Orchid Flower
The ancient Greeks thought orchids were a symbol of virility. In fact, they were so convinced of the connection between orchids and fertility that they believe orchids with large tuberous roots symbolized a male child, while orchids with small tubers symbolized a female child.
The Aztecs reportedly mixed the vanilla orchid with chocolate to create a tasty elixir that was thought to promote power and strength. Although the Victorians didn’t use orchids as magical elixirs, they did collect and display them as a sign of luxury and a means to exhibit their refined taste.
The Orchid Flower Facts
Orchid plants and flowers range in size and shape. Many grow in the understory of tropical forests, producing delicate blooms in a wide array of colors. While some are tiny plants, only a few inches tall, others like the Vanilla orchid grow on towering vines. The Vanilla orchid is native to Mesoamerica where the Totonaco Indians cultivated it. According to ancient Totonaco legend, the vanilla orchid sprung from the blood of Princess Xanat when she and her lover were beheaded for disobeying her father’s wishes.
Although the Chinese have cultivated orchids for over 3,000 years, it was not until the 1600s that visitors to the Far East brought orchids to Europe. By 1802 orchids were raised from seed and by 1856, the first cultivated hybrid was developed.
Orchid Flower Color Meanings
While all orchids symbolize love and beauty, the color of the orchid can change the intended meaning of the flower.
- Blue – Orchids come in every color but true blue, but there are blue tinted orchids. These orchids represent rarity
- Red – Red orchids symbolize passion and desire, but can also symbolize strength and courage.
- Pink – Pink orchids symbolize grace, joy and happiness and can also symbolize innocence and femininity.
- White – White orchids represent reverence and humility, innocence and purity, and elegance and beauty.
- Purple – Purple orchids symbolize admiration, respect, dignity and royalty.
- Yellow – Yellow or orchids represent friendship, joy and new beginnings.
- Orange – Orange orchids symbolize enthusiasm, boldness and pride.
- Green – Green orchids are thought to bring good fortune and blessings. They represent good health, nature and longevity.
Meaningful Botanical Characteristics of the Orchid Flower
In Chinese medicine, the orchid is used as an herbal remedy to ease coughs and lung diseases; treat kidney, lung and stomach deficiencies; and treat eye diseases.
The fragrance of orchid flowers is used in perfumes and beauty products.
The beans of the Vanilla orchid are dried and used as flavoring for sweet drinks and confections. It is a popular flavoring for ice cream, soft drinks and in cakes.
The Orchid Flower’s Message Is…
The orchid flower’s message is difficult to dismiss. This exotic flower brings beauty and grace to any occasion with flowers that appear to float in the air. They add a flair for the unusual to floral bouquets, or simply used as potted plants as centerpieces during special occasions. And, as if that were not enough, orchids give the world the sweet flavor of vanilla, too.