The Mythology of Flowers: Tales of Today’s Floral Sensations

by Robert Canning on October 08, 2021

For most people, flowers are always lovely to look at and admire. In various instances around the world, they represent history, values, and beliefs in specific cultures. Although they are mere items for decorations nowadays, they still represent a huge chunk of who we are as people. 

But what are some stories of common flower shop items sourced from Greek mythology? Keep reading below to find out.

1. Peonies

Considered as China’s traditional floral symbol, peonies are among the longest-used flowers in Eastern Culture. Although they seem like a modern floral sensation in flower shops, they have long existed—even called the King of Flowers at one point.

Peonies may be suitable for wedding arrangements as they symbolise a happy life and marriage, which most couples hope to achieve. In Greek mythology, people associate peonies with two slightly different stories describing their origins.

In one tale, peonies were once Paeon or the doctor to the gods. After successfully healing Hades, God of the Underworld, Paeon’s teacher Asclepius became jealous of his student. To save Paeon from danger, Zeus, the God of the Sky, turned him into a peony—preserving him forever.

Meanwhile, in another tale, the peonies were once a beautiful nymph named Paeonia. Because of her exceptional beauty, Apollo, the God of the Sun, grew a crush on her. The god’s gesture rubbed Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty, in the wrong way. As a means to get back to her, she turned Paeonia into a red peony.

2. Daffodils

Daffodils represent various texts in literature. In poetry, William Wordsworth, an English poet, wrote: “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” to pay homage to the happy flowers. The Chinese believe it is a symbol of good fortune, luck, and prosperity. Meanwhile, daffodils stand as the Welsh National Flower as its blooming period coincides with St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales.

In Greek Mythology, daffodils tell the story of Narcissus, a hunter renowned for his beauty and obsession with his good looks. For that, he was notorious for breaking hearts. Little did he know that breaking a nymph’s heart would be his demise. After he broke Echo’s heart, the nymph cursed him to be enchanted by his own likeness. In the end, he stayed by the water’s edge, looking at his reflection, until he turned into the daffodils we know today.

3. Sunflowers

The sunflower is an annual plant known for its large, daisy-like face. Aside from yellow, the plant comes in other colours, such as red, orange, maroon, and brown. However, it’s most notable for its bright yellow hue. There are various versions of a sunflower nowadays, fitting for almost every type of garden possible.

Some cultures view sunflowers to symbolise courage. As for Native Americans, they are known for using the plant for cooking, treating skin ailments, and making clothing. It is also common in arts, featured in Vincent van Gogh’s painting titled “Sunflowers,” sold in 1987 for a whopping $39 million.

However, the sunflower tells a tale of a nymph named Clytie, adoring the God of the Sun Apollo. The latter leaving Clytie for the Sea Goddess Leucothea made the nymph heartbroken. She stared at the God who crossed the sky in his golden chariot for the next nine days without food and water, slowly wasting away. Eventually, the nymph turned into a flower whose face permanently turned towards the sun.

Conclusion

Although the stories in Greek Mythology aren't necessarily true, they represent people’s beliefs, traditions, and culture. From the tales of narcissism to expressing our love for someone we’d do anything for, the narratives reflect who we are as people. It serves as a great reminder of beauty, complexity, and strength like what we see in flowers.

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