Alstroemeria aurea, commonly called Peruvian lily,Naldehra, Himachal Pradesh, India

The Magical World of Flowers

From a seed to a bud and finally blooming petals in a riot of colours, flowers bring us alive

The heady fragrance of madhaumalti or Rangoon Creeper and chameli aka Jasmine greets me as I park my car outside the Noida Biodiversity Park. I spend more time watching the bees and butterflies slowly sucking nectar from the flowers than focussing on my long, brisk walk. Nature is a wise creator; she provides for every being on the planet.

It fascinates me how the beautiful life forms offer so much—humans enjoy their fragrance and healing power and insects get their food and they are pollinators so more flowers can grow. Artists have been inspired by flowers, poets have gone berserk writing about their beauty and lovers have wooed with flowers.

“Flowers have a uniform function, the reproduction of the species through the production of seed”

How I fell in love with flowers

I think I seriously began to notice these fragile life forms when I started my art classes in 2006 at Shankar’s Academy of Art and Book Illustrations, Delhi. We used to have outdoor classes and my painting was akin to folk art. I realised that each aspect of Nature had something different, something unique and it was all so pleasing. My tryst with brushes and paints did not last long, entangled in a career in writing.

Peach Blossom, INA, Delhi, India
Peach Blossom, INA, Delhi, India

In 2016, I picked up my first DSLR. Of course, I began taking pictures of everything in sight, but it was the natural vistas that made me happy. Every time, I looked at the photograph, the colours, the blossoming and the vista would blow me away. I wanted to have this all at home. Of course, most of the mountain beauties would not survive in Delhi. I began to enjoy my travels by searching for more colour and variety for my photo library. I read that macro photography is useful for data collection—giving me a career option which I haven’t explored as yet because I need special equipment for it.

I also began to notice the behaviour of plants and birds. In a resort in Corbett National Park, I would often go to the lotus pond at different times of the day. And I noticed that the lotus would close its petals as the sun progressed, I could only shoot the full bloom during the early hours.

The more I gazed at flowers, the more mesmerised I became. Gradually, I realised why artists, poets and lovers express their emotions with flowers and why people love to gift flowers on all occasions. Chefs give their dishes an arty twist by adding edible flowers.

“There are about 391,000 species of vascular plants currently known to science, of which about 369,000 species (or 94 percent) are flowering plants’’ -Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom.

Evolution of Flowers

Long before humans walked on Earth, flowers filled the planet with colours. Scientific evidence shows “that plant life began colonising land 500 million years ago, during the Cambrian Period, around the same time as the emergence of the first land animals”. The earliest plants to exist were the liverworts which are flowerless, spore-producing plants that lack features such as roots or pores on their surfaces for gas and water exchange.

However, flowering plants, known as angiosperms, may have evolved 250 million years ago. “The oldest angiosperm fossils so far found are 135 million years old, and many researchers believe this is when the group originated,” according to

Verbena, Delhi, India
Verbena or Vervain, Delhi, India

Flowers in Mythology

Fragile and youthful, flowers symbolise our passage on Earth—birth, fertility, death and rebirth. They are wrapped in many myths.

In Greek mythology, red anemone, sometimes called the windflower, is linked with the death of the handsome Adonis. Both, Persephone (queen of the underworld) and Aphrodite (goddess of love) were in love with him. On a hunting expedition, Adonis was stabbed by a fierce boar, and following his cries, Aphrodite reached to see him bleeding to death. Red anemones sprang where his blood fell.

For Christians, red anemones represented the blood of Jesus Christ.

The Greek myth of Narcissus is a lesson for all those who only look at themselves. This handsome young man brutally scorned the advances of all the women who fell in love with him, including the nature nymph, Echo. The angered gods cursed him to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool. It is said that he drowned while trying to embrace his own image. A flower appeared at the spot by the pool where the young man would sit; the nymphs named it ‘narcissus’. It symbolised selfishness and cold heartedness.

For Mexican Indians, carnations are ‘flowers of the dead’, offered at funerals.

In Asian mythology, the lotus symbolizes the female reproductive organs. Brahma, God of creation in Hinduism, is said to have emerged from a lotus that was the navel or centre of the universe. Goddess Padma or Lakshmi, the creative force, also sits on a pink lotus and goddess Saraswati, symbolising knowledge and purity, sits on a white lotus.

As per Buddhist folklore, Buddha’s footprints were lotuses. And the famous chant, ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ meaning jewel in the lotus stands for enlightenment after going through the murk of life. The lotus does bloom in the mud.

A Japanese legend says that the mother of Nichiren, founder of a branch of Buddhism in 1200s, became pregnant by dreaming of sunshine on a lotus.

“There are over 18,000 species of flowering plants in India, which make up 6-7% of the total plant species in the world”

Calla lily or 
Zantedeschia aethiopica, Naldehra, Himachal Pradesh, India
Calla lily or Zantedeschia aethiopica, Naldehra, Himachal Pradesh, India

Flowers are connected to gods

The ancient Egyptians associated lily with Ishtar, the goddess of creation and fertility.

Christianity associates lily with Mary.

Greeks and Romans linked the lily with Hera and Juno, the queen goddess. The Romans also associated it with goddess Venus.

The Greeks had a floral goddess, Chloris who was married to Zephyrus, god of west wind.

The Romans had a flower goddess called Flora and celebrated a festival called Floralia. Flora has been portrayed holding flowers or scattering them; her blossom-crowned image appeared on coins of the Roman republic.

In India, Vishnu carries, the lotus in one hand, signifying fertility, birth and rebirth.

The Aztecs of central Mexico had a goddess of sexuality and fertility named Xochiquetzal which means “flower standing upright.” She carried a bouquet of flowers and wore a floral wreath in her hair.  

Floriography, the Language of flowers

In Europe of late 1800s, the people expressed their feelings with flowers and they even developed a code book of floral messages.

The apple blossom stood for: “Will the glow of love finally redden your delicate cheeks?”

Field clover meant: “Let me know when I can see you again.”

Red rose petal meant: “Yes!” and a white one “No!”  

Spathodea campanulata, is commonly known as the African tulip tree. Odisha, India
Spathodea campanulata, is commonly known as the African tulip tree. Odisha, India

Symbolism of flowers

Flowers represent the return of spring after winter, joyful youth, beauty and merriment. Yet, they fade quickly, and are thus linked to death. Probably, this is why flowers are placed on graves and even planted around them. The Mughals made several gardens in India, where the kings and queens rest in peace. Flowers are also divine offerings at sacred places.

Cosmos bipinnatus, commonly called the garden cosmos or Mexican aster, India
Cosmos bipinnatus, commonly called the garden cosmos or Mexican aster, India

Poppy is associated with sleep, as it contains a substance that produces opium. The ancients used this as a drug to ease pain. The Greeks associated poppies with both Hypnos (god of sleep) and Morpheus (god of dreams). Morphine, a drug made from opium, gets its name from Morpheus.

The epitome of love, sweet-smelling rose blooms on a thorny shrub. Mary, the mother of Christ, is sometimes addressed as the Mystic or Holy Rose. Rose water is used extensively in beauty treatments. In India gulkand or rose petals are ground with sugar to make a cooling sweetener.

Sunflowers revolve on their stalks to face the sun as it travels across the sky. A Greek myth associates this with a lovesick girl.

Violet, with its small purple and white flowers, grows close to the ground. The Greeks believed that violets were sacred to the gods Ares and Io, among the many human loves of Zeus. In Christianity, violet stands for humility.

The tradition of gifting flowers can be traced to anceint Egyptians, Greeks, and the Roman Empire.

Tulips, Chanakyapuri,  Delhi, India
Tulips, Chanakyapuri, Delhi, India

Healing Power of Flowers

Harnessing the healing power of the gentle life forms, Ayurveda and herbalists have made many plant-based medicines. Dr Edward Bach from the United Kingdom went a step ahead and captured their healing powers in bottles, giving us liquid and easy to drink ‘Bach’s remedies’ to heal all emotional issues.

Alternative therapists use flowers as colour therapy.

White blossoms represent purity and death.
Red ones symbolize passion, energy, and blood.
Yellow flowers suggest gold or the sun. In the Chinese Taoist tradition, enlightenment was pictured as a golden flower growing from the top of the head.

The shapes of flowers also have significance. With petals projecting outward like rays from the sun, they signify universal consciousness. The seven chakras or swirling centres in yoga are associated with different sizes and shapes of the lotus. The highest chakra, sahasrara, is a 1000-petalled lotus.

Cornflower, INA, Delhi, India
Cornflower, INA, Delhi, India

Flowers in Art and Literature

Different creators, different aspects. For sixteenth-century French poet Pierre Ronsard, flowers signified the short life of beauty. In his poem ‘Ode to Cassandra’, he likens Cassandra to a rose that is beautiful now, but will wither soon.  

John McCrae’s famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ (1915), focuses on the poppies growing over the graves of soldiers killed in World War I.

American filmmaker, Tim Burton is known for his fantasy film. In ‘Big Fish’ (2003), adapted from a novel by Daniel Wallace, the protagonist somehow gathers all the daffodils (also known as narcissus) from five states and plants them in a field to impress his love.

Flowers are common themes in rural folk art. Recently, I saw them in celebrated Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko. But before that I had seen the botanical collection of Indian artist Mahaveer Swami, who has popularised Bikaner miniature art. He paints with natural vegetable and gemstone colours.

Going back in time, Vincent Van Gogh has beautifully painted flowers to his credit such as Still Life Vase with Twelve Sunflowers (1888), Irises (1890). Other famous paintings include Flower Garden by Gustav Klimt (1905), Flowers by Henri Matisse (1907), Water Lilies by Claude Monet (1908).

Authors over time have used flower symbolism in literature. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia distributes flowers to the other characters, highlighting the complex emotional state. Each flower represents a different sentiment–rosemary for remembrance, pansies for thoughts, fennel for flattery, columbines for ingratitude and violets for faithfulness.  

Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel, The Great Gatsby, is named after the daisy flower.

In L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the protagonist Dorothy and her companions encounter a field of beautiful, but deadly, poppies, which symbolise sleep.

Marcel Proust has used water lilies as a recurring motif to show the passage of time and the fleeting nature of memory in his book In Search of Lost Time.

Waterlily or Nymphaea x marliacea , Mehsana, Gujarat, India
Waterlily or Nymphaea x marliacea , Mehsana, Gujarat, India

Flowers Purify the Air

Nature has created all life forms with perfection and each fulfils a purpose. Flowers take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, purifying the air. Research shows that flowers can purify the air by as much as 25%, depending on the space and the number of flowers.

When you see, buy, or receive flowers, reward hormone dopamine is released. It makes you feel better and special at the same time.

Mussaenda philippica or Bangkok Rose, Queen Sirikit), Rambha, Odisha, India
Mussaenda philippica or Bangkok Rose, Queen Sirikit,, Rambha, Odisha, India

Why You Should Bring Flowers in Your Home?

Flowers elevate mood. They help overcome depression.
They boost creativity and productivity.
Flowers bring you in touch with Nature.
Flowers influence your sense of smell. Research shows that the sense of smell is connected with memory.
Plants make you a better caregiver.

Careers related to Flowers

Ambica in a mustard field, Chambal, Uttar Pradesh, India
Ambica in a mustard field, Chambal, Uttar Pradesh, India

Florist is someone who sells flowers. Floristry is the art of flower arrangement.
Become a part of floriculture, in which flowers are grown for commercial use.
Gardener, someone who takes care of gardens.
Landscape architect is someone who can turn terrains into natural scenic spots.
Horticulturalist, a scientist who modifies plants and flowers to keep them healthy, rewild spaces.
Botanist, someone who studies plants and flowers.
Conservationist, ecologist, photographer, writer, artist.

Flowers are magical, spellbinding. I can write a book on them. But I leave you to with the fragrance of my favourite flower–jasmine.  

Do share with us your stories about flowers and how they make your day.

This post was created for the Blogaberry Creative (Monthly) Challenge.


17 thoughts on “The Magical World of Flowers

  1. Your article beautifully captures the essence of flowers and their ability to bring life and joy. The imagery you used to describe their growth from a seed to blooming petals is enchanting. It’s a delightful reminder of the beauty that flowers bring to our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Flowers know the language of every emotion and so its presence in our lives makes it easy for us to express our feelings in a very different and meaningful way without uttering much. Flowers attracts me always and so I also love writing, reading and growing flowers. It gives me an ultimate level of satisfaction and peace of mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I do love flower. It gives positivity and change our mood instantly. You beautifully pen down it from the Bud to the Petals. Captured every tiny thing from devotion to career. Well researched and beautifully written post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The very first line caught my attention as i have been revisiting my childhood memories with Madhumalati flowers for the last some days. Their smell was a vital part of our summer retreats outside the house, with our neighbourhood kids and other neighbors. On the other hand, Jasmine is my favorite flower. So, your beginning part of this post stole my heart as I visualized the sight you have described here.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! Your post is really informative. I enjoyed reading it and learnt so much. Lovely photographs too. Every culture has a place for flowers. They are universal.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your writing surely made me appreciate more about flowers than I used to. I’m not a flower person. I personally told my then-boyfriend, now hubby that I would appreciate him not giving me flowers on any occasion. hehe… we can just eat out or do something else. Practicality or not, I just don’t see the use of bouquets of flowers as others. Your appreciation differs though, which I liked.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I must say it is a beautiful post. I mean amazing. How descriptive the flowers could be with mesmerising scent and scenic view, I never thought ! I just think of such typical texts about flowers in the science textbooks only. Looking forward for more content like this.

    Liked by 1 person

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