Just as Zodiac signs are attributed to specific characteristics and personality traits, flowers are also associated closely with different months and the traits that come with them. One single Google search for birth month flowers reveals myriad pages that talk about the flowers that symbolize individual personality traits associated with each month. However, none of these pages seem to plumb deeper into the question of why specific flowers have come to be associated with particular characteristics over the years. What historical events and origin stories might have catered to the development of these perspectives towards a flower? What might seasonal characteristics of a flower have allowed it to be associated with specific months and the people who are born in that particular month? What might cultural perspectives from around the world have contributed to the symbolism that is now associated with a flower? In this particular blog article, we will attempt to answer these questions and also provide a deeper insight into some of the lesser-known facts and scenarios that might have played an important role in defining flowers by birth month flowers- etymology and the symbolism associated with them.
January – Carnation
Carnations are known for having some of the most diverse set of meanings and symbolisms amongst all flowers, owing to the rich historical, cultural as well as religious significance that it enjoys. The origin of the name of this flower has been cited to have religious and/or mythical beginnings. Some people are of the opinion that Carnations got their name from the linguistic term “coronation” owing to the fact that these flowers were used as showpieces on ceremonial crowns in ancient Greece. Another set of opinions point to the fact that Carnations bear the linguistic resemblance to the Latin word “carnies” which means flesh. The name of the flower is considered to be derived from this Latin root, owing to the fact that Carnations were mostly found in a typical pink color (the color of flesh) during the early years, after which it evolved into diverse varieties bearing a myriad of varied colors.
The symbolic meanings associated with Carnations are associated with the different colors that the flowers come in. For instance, white Carnations are a representation of purity, luck and unconditional love. Dark red Carnations are said to signify affection, love and deeper sentiments such as intimacy. The origin of this symbolism of love associated with the flower seems to stem from the religious belief that the first Carnation bloomed when Virgin Mary’s tears fell on the ground as she witnessed Jesus carrying the cross. The symbolism and the origins of the same have been used to associate the flower with some crucial events and movements through the ages. For instance, white Carnations are worn by the citizens of the Netherlands each year, as a remembrance of the veterans who died during World War II in the service of their country.
Carnations have also been associated with feelings and emotions that are on the negative end of the spectrum. For instance, yellow Carnations have been associated with the feeling of rejection and disappointment. On the other hand, purple Carnations have been associated with the personality trait of being capriciousness, which is essentially a means of depicting impulsive and unpredictable behavior. Even though these feelings might not be considered as positive, they have nevertheless resulted in the flower being used in different types of occasions and scenarios for their symbolic value. An example of this includes the use of purple Carnations in France as the flower that is worn to funerals.
Floral Fact: For students of Oxford University, it is compulsory to wear Carnations during examinations. The first examination requires the students to wear a white Carnation, while the last examination requires them to wear red Carnations. All the examinations between the first and last one have to be attended while wearing pink Carnations.
February – Violets
One reason behind why the violet has been associated with February is due to the fact that it is the quintessential flower of Valentine’s Day. If you thought that Roses were the perfect gifts for Valentine’s Day, wait till you hear the reason behind why Violets have been associated with the Love Holiday. According to historical records, St. Valentine used the ink of Violets to pen love notes. The flower has found its way into mythological records as well, similar to the Carnation, as legend speaks of the way in which the Roman goddess Venus turned a group of maidens into Violets out of jealousy due to their superior beauty and dainty figures.
Some species of Violets bloom throughout the year, while others prefer specific seasons over others, owing to the climatic conditions that best suit their growth. However, most varieties of Violets bloom during the spring season and require large amounts of moisture in the atmosphere for the perfect blooming environment. Some regions are able to provide these conditions and blooming environment even during the fall, thereby giving rise to scenic rolling hillsides of violet and purple hues amidst white, snow-covered plains.
The blooming behavior of the Violets, as well as the mythical and historical references to the same, has allowed the flower to accumulate qualities such as dependability, thoughtfulness, and loyalty. In the Victorian era, when the language of flowers was commonly used to convey feelings and emotions, Violets signified the faithfulness of the sender to the receiver, thereby acting as a floral declaration of always being true to each other.
Floral Fact: one of the most mysterious aspects of the Violets is whether or not they have the ability to produce fragrance. The aspect to understand here is that Violets are full of ketones, which are chemical compounds that have the ability to block the sensory receptors of the individual on a temporary basis.
March – Daffodil
The Daffodil is also known as Narcissus, a name that it derives from the mythical story of Echo and Narcissus. In this story, a nymph going by the name of Echo falls in love with a handsome lad known as Narcissus, but her love is not reciprocated by a lad who tells her to leave him alone. Due to his continual behavior against several other nymphs such as Echo, the Gods started to notice his vanity and pride and decided to punish him. However, the Gods did not have to do much, owing to the fact that Narcissus was consumed with an obsession with his own personality. Once he saw his reflection in a pond, he could not rid himself of the immense beauty and splendor that he saw in the reflection. The Gods made him forget himself so that he could not recognize his own reflection, due to which he started to think that the reflection was a beautiful water nymph. He starved himself and waited till death for his reflection to come out of the water and embrace him, but this never happened. When he died, a Daffodil appeared in his place, drooping and staring down into the water just like him.
Due to its association with the mythical story of Narcissus, the flower has been associated with egotism and conceit. However, there are numerous other symbolic qualities that the flower has garnered due to its association with the mythical story, such as it is the representation of rebirth and new beginnings. This is reflected in the blooming behavior of the flower, especially owing to the fact that it is one of the first flowers to poke its head out of the snow of winter, thereby signifying the beginning of summer.
Another important characteristic which the Daffodil shares with Narcissus can be understood in the light of the behavioral traits of the character that caused him to inflict harm upon numerous nymphs, owing to the way in which he shunned their love with scorn, hurting their feeble hearts. This characteristic is represented by the sap which the Daffodils exude when cut, which can prove to be poisonous to all the other flowers that grow in its vicinity. Hence, when dealing with flowers like Daffodils, it can be beneficial to read about the right techniques for cutting and taking care of them in a vase.
April – Daisy
Daisies have more botanical significance to personality traits as compared to mythical correlations. A Daisy consists of two different floral parts which are integrated together in such a seamless way that it appears to be one single unit. One part of this floral unit is the ray floret, while the other part is the disc floret. The ray floret consists of the outwardly extending petals that emanate from a central disc, which is the disc floret that manifests in numerous colors such as yellow and purple. The petals that characterize the ray floret of the flower occur mainly in white, but also emerge in hues such as purple, yellow and red.
The intrinsic bond shared between the ray floret and the disc floret of the flower symbolizes the intricate way in which love and communion can bond two individuals together. Due to the way in which the botanical features of the flower intertwine with each other in an impeccable manner, the flower is said to represent qualities such as purity, all-conquering love, innocence and even a childlike playfulness. These qualities can be seen to be apt for those individual who are born under the sign of Aries and are considered to be happy-go-lucky, youthful, caring, energetic and intensely passionate.
Floral Fact: In the UK, it is believed that the name “Daisy” comes from the colloquial term that was used for the flower, namely “Day’s Eye.” This term was associated with the flower owing to the way in which the ray floret closed during the night, completely enveloping the central disc, only revealing it once the sun rises again.
May – Lily of the Valley
The seasonal blooming of Lilies of the Valley have been associated with numerous mythical and religious stories, which lend it special qualities and cause it to invoke certain feelings over others. In this case, one of the most famous stories associated with the blooming of the flower is that the Lily fell in love with the singing of a nightingale and bloomed only when it heard its song, which it sang only in the month of May. In France, individuals gift each other bouquets of Lilies the Valley to celebrate May Day or Labor Day.
The most common color that the flower comes in is white, even though other hues such as pink have been observed in nature. It blooms during the spring season and continues to thrive till fall, during which it produces sweet berries, especially during the month of September. Even though the flower has now been observed to be poisonous when ingested, it was previously used as a means to cure cardiac illnesses, owing to the presence of cardiac glycosides in the leaves and flowers of the plant.
Owing to the color, the blooming period as well as the sweet fruits that are produced by the flower, some of the main qualities that are attributed to the same includes humility and purity. It is also associated with chastity, motherhood and sweetness, elements which have been represented in religious and mythical contexts. For instance, it was said that when Eve was banished from the Garden of Eden, her tears turned into Lilies of the Valley.
June – Rose
The Rose is a flower which has some of the most prominently established cultural, historical and mythological ties to the qualities that it has been imbued with over the years. Historically, the term “sub rosa” originated from the Romans, who used to hang Roses from the ceiling of banquet halls. “Sub rosa” or under the Rose, was used as a symbolic gesture to denote that anything spoken in such a situation would be confidential to the utmost degree. Hence, Roses were placed on top of areas where drink and feast was served, as well as on the ceilings of places where important meetings took place.
The ideals or values that the Rose represents can be best understood by looking at the four tarot cards on which the flower appears. The white rose on the fool’s card symbolizes purity and innocence, on the Magician’s card it is used to symbolize the manner in which wisdom unfolds in one’s life, on the Strength card is signifies balance, while on the Death card it represents clarity and transparency of intent.
In history and culture, roses have played an immense role in some of the greatest events that molded the very nature of humanity during a particular period. For instance, during the “War of the Roses,” the house of Lancaster was represented by the red rose, while the house of York was represented by white rose. When the winner emerged as a third party ruler from the house of Tudor, both the white rose and the red rose were combined, giving rise to the Tudor Rose. The immense significance of the flower from historical and traditional perspectives has helped it to be associated with values such as devotion, faith, honor, and of course, love.
July – Delphinium
The name Delphinium comes from the appearance of the flowering bud that is characteristic of this particular floral species, which is roughly shaped in the form of the nose of a bottle-nosed dolphin. The Delphinium is also known by the name of Larkspur, owing to the appearance of the bloom, which looks roughly like the claws of a lark. As per mythological stories, the first of these flowers blossomed when the blood of a soldier named Ajax fell on the battlefield of Troy. Other mythological accounts relate the flower to the temple of Delphi, which was constructed in the honor of the sun God, Apollo.
There have been numerous uses for the flower throughout the ages, especially notable of which is the ability that the flower possesses for curing snake bite wounds as well as scorpion wounds. The immensely valuable uses of the flower as well as its mythological background has allowed it to garner values that only a few other flowers can boast. Some of these include the representation of openness of the heart, and thereby, the enthusiasm to delve into new experiences. Gifting a delphinium as a happy birthday flower can act as a push towards transformation or can be a token or reminder for rediscovering the beauty in their lives. Their ability to cure poisonous bites is reflected in their ability to push someone towards action and adventure.
August – Gladiola
These flowers are known as the flowers of the month of August owing to their blooming time, which occurs within this month when the conditions are favorable. These plants require spring conditions for the purpose of rooting and bloom when the descent into autumn and fall begin in August. Gladiolas belong to the same family as Lilies, and are found in a wide array of colors, including blue, red, orange, white and cream. One of the singular characteristics that define Gladiolas is that the buds of the flower emerge from a corm rather than a bulb. Corms are swollen bases of stems, which contain enough nutrient material in order to provide nourishment for the flower. The presence of corms allow for the easy separation of juvenile flowers, which do not need to be stored separately. All one needs to do is separate the corm and use it as the base for the new flowers to emerge from.
The name Gladiola derives from the Roman root word “gladius,” which indicates sword. The word is also associated with a profession, namely that of gladiators, owing to which the flower is said to represent integrity and strength. The flower is imbued with medicinal properties, but also contains poison, which can be extremely harmful for animals such as dogs and cats, even though humans cannot be killed due to the same. The poisonous sap, the sword-like leaves and the brilliant flowers of the Gladiola give it the property of searing infatuation and seduction as well.
September – Aster
The name Aster derives from the Greek word of the same morphological family, which is “asteri” or star. The flower has been long associated with magical and mythical backgrounds. For instance, the symbolism of love and undying devotion arises from the mythological story about how Asters emerged from the tears of the Greek God Asterae, or as the result of the sprinkling of stardust by the Roman God Virgo. The magical background of the flower emerges from an ancient belief that when the flowers are burnt, their scent has the power to ward off serpents.
The different colors of the flowers also signify different feelings and emotions. For instance, the purple Asters are said to signify royalty and wisdom, the white ones are a representation of purity and innocence, the red asters symbolize undying devotion, and the pink aster act as a symbol of love and sensitivity. The flowers have been used for numerous medicinal purposes, especially in Chinese culture and tradition, for ailments such as epilepsy and hangovers, to respiratory illnesses.
Floral Fact: Asters are drought resistant and use the wind as a natural agent for pollination. The seeds of the plants are shaped in the likeness of parachutes, which allow them to travel large distances, especially owing to their adaptability to environmental conditions.
October – Marigold
The autumn colored hues of the flower, namely orange, red and yellow, as a direct representation of the month in which it blooms. It also enjoys a rich heritage, both culturally as well as historically. The first recorded use of Marigolds was during the period when the Aztec civilization was at its peak. The Aztecs used to use the flower for religious ceremonies, and also used to employ it for the purpose of herbal medicines. Marigolds are also associated with immense nutritional value, owing to the presence of the chemical compound lutein in them, which plays an important role in maintaining eye health. In India, Marigolds serve as offerings to the Gods, and are imbued with immense spiritual significance.
Even though on one hand, the flower was used as a ceremonial offering, it is also associated with feelings of despair and grief. In Mexican culture, the flowers are seen as a symbol of the dead and their remembrance, while the Victorian culture linked it to the cruel treatment of a loved one. However, the flower has evolved to take up numerous other values, such as creative impetus, cheerfulness and beauty, often associated with the warmth of the rising sun.
Floral Fact: The coldness, cruelty and the apparent association of the flower with death might actually stem from the first peoples who were recorded as using Marigold, namely the Aztecs. These indigenous people believed that their Gods can only be pleased through human sacrifice and hence, were known to slaughter large numbers of people to appease the divine powers.
November – Chrysanthemum
The Chrysanthemum flower has an entire festival dedicated to its blooming, which is celebrated as the “Festival of Happiness” in Japan. The Emperor of Japan loved the flower so much that he adopted it as his official seal. The immense importance of the flower in Japanese culture comes from the reverence that is associated with the systematic unfolding of its minute petals, which is considered as a display of immense perfection that the Japanese uphold and strive to achieve in their everyday practices as well.
The Victorians, who were ardent users of floriography or the “Language of Flowers,” considered the flowers to be symbols of well-wishing and friendship. In China, the flowers are said to symbolize long life and vigor, thereby being a preferred gift for the elderly. The nickname of the flowers, which is “Mums,” has earned it the reputation of being the symbolic flower for Mother’s Day in Australia. The Chinese consider the flower to be an integral part of art, owing to the immense significance that the flower plays in the tradition of the country, namely being one of the first flowers to be cultivated in the country.
Floral Fact: Chrysanthemum is considered to be the seminal flower that blooms within the fall season and is hence, labeled as the Queen of Fall Flowers. This name is especially prevalent in the United States of America, where it is used as a brand name.
December – Poinsettia
The Poinsettia flowers in the deep winter month of December, and was first recognized by the Aztecs, who noticed its brilliant red hue springing up from the whiteout of the snow. The Aztecs extracted a purple dye from the bright red flowers, while they proceeded to use the sap of the plant as a means to treat fever. Once the plant was brought to the North America, it became known as the quintessential Christmas flower, owing to its flowering period. The flower, being associated with Christmas, symbolizes cheer, merriment and celebration.
The berries of the plant are toxic to humans, and can induce nausea and vomiting if ingested. The flower is also used to make a special type of tea, which varies according to the region. For instance, in the Central America, it is used to make a black stimulant, while in the regions of South America, it is used make Yerba Mate, which is a staple drink amongst the locals. The plant is also preferred by animals, owing to the way in which its leaves and petals provide shelter from the cold of winter.