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Top 9 Flowers That Symbolize Death

Top 9 Flowers That Symbolize Death

When you think of a flower, you may think of love, hope, happiness, and beauty. However, some flowers have darker meanings and symbolism behind them.

For some flowers, their presence or their appearance may signify death.

Learn which flowers symbolize death and why they still continue to do so in some cultures and situations even today.

1. Lilium (Lily)

Lilium (Lily).
Lilium
Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Lilium, also commonly referred to as lily, may not appear as a symbol of death, but it can be commonly linked to the loss of innocence, funerals, and is even sometimes called the “flower of sadness”, depending on which culture or region you are in.

The genus name of the lily, or Lilium, is derived from the word “leiron”, a Greek word that refers to the white Madonna lily.

In Christianity, the Lily is often referred to as a trinity symbol, which has many positive associations.

The lily flower is also mentioned numerous times throughout the bible, which also lends credence to the significant meaning the flower holds, even in today’s modern culture.

Other words that describe the lily include grief, life, mourning, death, truth, and even saying goodbye.

2. Chrysanthemum

Yellow Chrysanthemum.
Yellow Chrysanthemum
Image Courtesy: pxfuel.com

The Chrysanthemum, also known as classic mum flowers, is just one of approximately 40 different species of perennials that are native to various regions throughout both Europe as well as Asia.

While for some, the Chrysanthemum flower represents devotion, fidelity, loyalty, and friendship, it can also have darker meanings that relate to sadness, loss, grief, and death, depending on which situation you are using mums in.

The United States typically recognizes mums as a flower of loyalty and truth.

In certain cultures, such as Asian and European cultures, Chrysanthemum flowers are used to provide a bit of color and lightness to funeral floral arrangements, which is said to bring a sense of peace to those who are grieving.

They can also indicate mourning, grief, and death altogether, regardless of the exact situation or environment an individual is in.

3. Rafflesia

Rafflesia.
Rafflesia
User:Rendra Regen Rais, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rafflesia flower is native to Southeast Asia and has five distinctive leathery petals that help this flower stand out from the rest.

Most often, the Rafflesia can be found in tropical environments, including rainforests.

Rafflesia is known as the largest single-blooming flower on the planet.

Because the rafflesia genus is actually not capable of having chlorophyll, there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not the rafflesia is, in fact, actually a flower at all.

However, for those who do believe the rafflesia is a flower, it is known that the rafflesia is often referred to as a symbol of death.

Due to its lack of chlorophyll, its distinct rotting smell, and its parasitic nature in general, the rafflesia can be used to symbolize death.

4. Lycoris (Red Spider Lily)

Lycoris.
Lycoris
Yasunori Koide, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lilies are some of the most popular flowers across the world and regardless of culture and/or beliefs.

The Lycoris, commonly referred to as the Red Spider Lily, is often referred to as a symbol of death and reincarnation.

The name, Lycoris, is derived from a Japanese term, Higanbana, which is translated to “a flower that blooms during the fall equinox”.

In Japan, the flower can also be referred to as the flower in heaven, which also links the belief that red spider lilies are closely associated with reincarnation, death, and the rebirth of life.

Red spider lilies are perennials and can be found in various regions around the world.

It is important to note that all species of Lycoris contain a poison called alkaline, which can cause severe reactions ranging from abdominal pain and depression to vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases, fatal incidents.

To this day, Lycoris is used in traditional Chinese medicine, which can help a range of ailments from ulcers and epilepsy to liver issues.

5. Aconitum (Aconite; Wolfsbane)

Aconitum.
Aconitum
TeunSpaans., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Aconitum, more commonly referred to as Aconite, Wolfsbane, and sometimes Monkshood is from the family Ranunculaceae.

The Wolfsbane is a poisonous perennial that is found most often throughout the Northern hemisphere.

The name of the genus (Aconitum), comes from the Greek word “akonitos”, which can loosely be translated to the word “cone”, which references the design of the plant and how it utilizes an arrow poison.

The term Wolfsbane is used to refer to the Aconitum flower as in history in Greece, shepherds laced their arrows as well as their bit with Aconite to assist in killing the wolves.

Monkshood is another term that is often used to refer to Aconitum flowers. The name was given to the flower due to the monastic head covering resemblance to the actual blossom of the flower once it is in bloom.

When it comes to symbolism, the Aconitum is often referred to as a flower that represents caution and death.

In some cases, it may also refer to misanthropy, which is why this flower has many darker meanings than alternatives on this list.

6. Dracula (Monkey Orchid)

Dracula Flower.
Dracula Flower
Kilitz Photography, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At first glance, the Monkey Orchid, or the Dracula flower, may either frighten you or cause you to find a flower cute.

This startling flower from the Orchidaceae family is known for its monkey-like face that appears directly in the center of the flower itself.

The Dracula, or Monkey Orchid flower, can be found in various parts of South America as well as throughout most of Central America, as it thrives in warmer environments that are humid and rife with moisture.

For this flower, the term Dracula is Latin for “little dragon“, which refers to the monkey-like and ominous appearance of the plant.

When it comes to symbolism, the Monkey Orchid truly stands out among the rest. If you are looking for a dark flower or a flower that has an evil meaning, the Monkey Orchid is one flower that cannot be overlooked.

In most instances, the Monkey Orchid is used to represent not only death in the general sense, but also evil and darkness.

In some cases, the Dracula flower may also be used to represent authority and absolute power over others and over a particular situation, depending on when and where it is used.

It is important to note that the Dracula, or the Monkey Orchid, is, in fact, an orchid as well.

It is known that many orchid flowers are symbols of death, caution, or even rebirth.

7. Gladiolus

Gladiolus.
Gladiolus
Christer Johansson, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The Gladiolus, also known as the Gladiola or the Sword Lily, is a bright lily from the family of Iridaceae, a plant family of more than 300 species in total.

The Sword Lily is a bright and attractive perennial lily that comes in a wide range of colors, from bright purple to red.

The flower is tall, narrow, and thin, and produces a delightful and colorful center that is opposite to its main color or complementary in nature.

The genus name ‘Gladiolus’, comes from the Latin word ‘small sword’, hence the term ‘Sword Lily’, which is what this flower is most often referred to today.

Additionally, in ancient Greece, the term ‘gladiolus’ was also known as the word ‘xiphium’, which was loosely translated into the word ‘sword’.

While in some cultures and regions, the Gladiolus flower symbolizes honor, strength, and integrity, it can also represent a range of emotions and experiences that are not as optimistic, such as sadness, remembrance, and in some cases, even death.

8. Carnations

Red Carnation Flower.
Red Carnation Flower
Rick Kimpel, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When you think of a carnation, your first thought is not likely to involve death. However, these bright pink, white, and red flowers can actually be a symbol for remembrance as well as death, depending on when they are used and in which region.

Throughout the West, carnations are known for showing respect while planning funeral arrangements or when commemorating the passing of a loved one.

Most often, when carnations are used to reminisce about someone or in remembrance, pink and white carnations are used.

Typically, red carnations are reserved for showing love as well as admiration for another, rather than symbolizing death, loss, and/or remembrance.

Choosing the color(s) of carnations to use will greatly depend on your individual situation and whether you are using carnations to show love or to show respect for someone who has passed.

9. Hyacinths

Hyacinths.
Hyacinths
Editor5807, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hyacinths are tall, bright purple flowers that are striking and bold. They are typically native to Southeast Asia and are used as perennial herbs.

The name of the Hyacinth flower comes from the word Hyacinthus, the Greek word for flowering a plant.

In Greek symbolism, the Hyacinthus is known as the God apollo. In the Biblical sense, Hyacinths can represent the embodiment of wisdom as well as the ability to obtain the tranquility of God.

However, in some mythologies, such as paganism, Hyacinths are used to represent peace of mind based on the Prince Hyakinthos tragedy.

However, there are even more meanings associated with Hyacinths in Ancient Greece. Ancient Greece believed that Hyacinths were representative of bad luck, and sometimes represented bad omens, depending on when they were used and under what circumstances.

They also believed the flowers could represent death due to the legacy stories told about the flower’s origins and meaning.

Summary

Although many flowers are positive and hopeful, some may have slightly different meanings.

While most flowers may initially bring up colorful and peaceful imagery, understanding which flowers symbolize death, grief, and mourning can help you to choose appropriate flowers in any situation.

References

  • https://www.atozflowers.com/flower-tags/death/
  • https://www.usurnsonline.com/funeral-resources/funeral-flower-meanings/

Header image courtesy: Ivan Radic, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons