Thanks to a peculiar bee, it has been said that orchids were discovered anywhere between 26 and 110 million years ago. Since their discovery, the history, symbolism, and various names of orchids have been shaped by numerous cultures around the world. Derived from the Greek word meaning “boat,” Cymbidium Orchids were named after their boat-shaped lip. The Greeks also had an influence on the naming of Dendrobium Orchids, which means “life in a tree.” We can credit the Swedish Naturalist, Peter Osbeck for giving Phalaenopsis Orchids their nickname “moth orchid,” as he once mistook the plant for a cluster of moths.
Aside from their rich history, orchids have adopted an array of meanings and have since become a symbol of love, charm, beauty, refinement, thoughtfulness, and fertility. If you’re wondering how some of these meanings and symbols come about, our expert floral team at Curran’s Flowers, Danvers’ best florist, is always happy to share our knowledge. Read interesting cultural stories about your favorite orchids below.
Historical Orchid Symbolism and Uses
As the ancient Greeks associated orchids with fertility, they also used this bloom to predict gender. With its varied sized roots, orchids with large tuberous roots symbolized a male baby while the small roots symbolized a female baby. As orchids are still a symbol of fertility today, especially pink orchid flowers, they’re the perfect flower to celebrate baby showers, growing families, and newborns.
Power and strength are two qualities admired by the ancient Aztecs and believed to be symbolized by the orchid. Due to this symbolism, the Aztecs created their very own elixir by mixing vanilla orchids and chocolate to enhance these qualities in themselves. Whether we can credit the orchids or not, the Aztecs were once the most powerful empire in Mesoamerica.
As a symbol of refinement and luxury, orchids were cherished by royal and wealthy families in the Victorian Era. This era soon saw the “Orchidelirium” as these families more than marveled at the beauty of these blooms, but became obsessed with collecting as many orchids as possible. Still today, orchids are a symbol of refined taste, and purple orchids remain a symbol of royalty.
Ancient Chinese medical practitioners were drawn to the orchid flower to help treat brutal coughs and lung diseases. In addition, they were also utilized in treatments for kidney diseases, eye diseases, and stomach deficiencies. As there are numerous types of orchids, the dendrobium orchid, commonly referred to as the “Bamboo Orchid,” was most often used in Chinese medicines. Green orchids remain a symbol of good health in most cultures, still today.
The Japanese culture saw the ability of orchids to thrive in a variety of environments, including both mountain habitats and the plains, as a sign of their strength, power, and luxurious and rich life. These familiar associations have translated into concrete symbols of the orchid. In addition, the symbol of fertility is also recognized in this culture as a beautiful meaning of this particular bloom. As such, orchids can be found in many homes and offices in Japan to bring good fortune in both their personal and business lives.
From phalaenopsis to cymbidium and dendrobium, there are numerous types of orchids. However, the general meaning of orchid remains the same to include beauty, love, refinement, fertility, char, and thoughtfulness. Today, orchids are used as a lovely fragrance in perfumes and beauty products, as well as make meaningful gifts for loved ones. Browse online or stop by Curran’s Flowers, to find the freshest orchids