It’s believed that orchids were discovered between 26 and 110 million years ago, thanks to an unusual pollinating bee. Since then, their history, meanings, and names have been shaped by hundreds of cultures around the world. For instance, the phalaenopsis orchid became known as “the moth orchid” after a Swedish naturalist mistook the bloom for a swarm of moths back in the mid-1750s. The Greek language influenced the name of the dendrobium orchid, which means “life in a tree,” and the cymbidium orchid, derived from the Greek word “kymbos” which describes the boat shape of this flower’s lip.
From the ancient Greeks to modern-day America, orchids have adopted various meanings and became symbols for things such as refinement, beauty, love, fertility, thoughtfulness, and charm. But where exactly did these meanings of orchids come from, and what stories do these beautiful blooms have to tell? Our team here at Busch’s Florist, the top flower shop in Jefferson City, is always happy to answer all of your questions.
Historical Orchid Uses and Symbolism
Long ago, the Greeks strongly connected orchids with fertility. They practiced predicting the genders of unborn children based on the tuberous roots of orchids. It was believed that large tuberous orchid roots symbolized a male child while smaller roots symbolized a female child. Orchids today, most notably pink orchid flowers, are still a symbol of fertility and are a great flower to celebrate growing families, baby showers, and newborns.
The ancient Aztecs believed that orchids represented qualities such as power and strength. They even created their own elixirs from vanilla orchids and chocolate to promote these qualities in themselves. Perhaps there was some truth to this, as the Aztec Empire was once known as the most powerful in Mesoamerica.
The wealthy and royal families of the Victorian Era deeply treasured orchids. This perhaps, was due in part by Charles Darwin’s published work on orchids in 1862. Some say Darwin started the “orchidelirium,” known as the time when wealthy families became obsessed with collecting this particular bloom. Stemming from such history, orchids are still a symbol of luxury, beauty, and refined taste, especially purple orchids.
Orchids were a popular ingredient in ancient Chinese medicine to aid in ailments such as lung disease and coughing. These flowers were also used to treat kidneys, stomach deficiencies, and eye diseases. Traditional Chinese medicine often opted for the dendrobium orchid, which is also known as the “Bamboo Orchid” due to its bamboo-like appearance. Today, you’ll find that green orchids are still associated with “good health.”
Modern Japanese culture connects orchids with similar meanings and symbolism as seen throughout history. However, the origins of these meanings do vary. For instance, as a symbol of strength and power, orchids are able to thrive in various habitats, including both the plains and mountains. Therefore, Japanese culture associated this adaptation with strength and power as well as rich and luxurious lives. In Japan, you can find orchids in homes and offices, as their connection to fertility translates to good fortune in both life and business.
Although there are numerous types of orchids, from phalaenopsis and dendrobium to cymbidium, the general meaning of orchid remains the same. Love, beauty, fertility, refinement, thoughtfulness, and charm make this bloom quite special and unique. Not only do orchids make lovely fragrances for perfumes and beauty products in today’s modern American culture, but they can be the perfect gift for our loved ones. Find the freshest orchids here at Busch’s Florist.