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Flowers in the Bible and Their Meanings and Symbolism
Plants and trees have a significance that goes beyond every day – they are often used in Christianity as symbols of faith or icons representing abstract concepts, characters, colors, and more. They add another layer to our understanding by giving these ideas life through their beauty and power.
Symbols of Christianity, such as religious icons, are seen as sacred emblems with special significance. Flowers and plants symbolize God’s generosity – His outpouring of truth, beauty, and goodness for all of Creation.
Christianity used to associate flowers with an immoral lifestyle, but now they’re loved and appreciated all over the world as a symbol of God’s creation and how He cares for each of us. What was once considered decadent is now a common sign of appreciation or affection.
Flowers are a beautiful way for Christians to show their faith and celebrate life’s special moments. From Easter celebrations with cheerful displays of bouquets, to solemn funerals dotted with meaningful blooms — flowers bring an air of joy, peace, respect, and remembrance that echo throughout the Christian community.
Christian brides symbolically celebrate their fertility and grace as they walk down the aisle, armed with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. In biblical times, these blooms were worn like wreaths or garlands around their heads.
Flowers in the Bible and their meanings are a beautiful study of God and His character.
Flowers are a beautiful reminder of the power and presence of Christ’s love. Their vibrant colors and intricate shapes carry symbolic meanings that help illustrate his purity, grace, and devotion.
Flowers in the Bible and Their Meanings A – H
Anemone (Anemone coronaria)
Jesus taught us not to worry about our needs, in part by referring to the “lilies of the field.” But those lilies were probably more common – think wildflowers like crown anemone or any kind of flower, as the Bible does not provide additional insight on the type of flower He was referencing.
Sometimes studying the flowers mentioned in the Bible can be tricky as different translations indicate different flowers.
Early spring brings with it the beauty of crown anemone, which adds depth and contrast to gardens in every color imaginable – from vibrant crimson to striking purple. Its unique black centers draw attention as well.
Derivation of the botanical name:
Anemone, anemos (Greek), “wind.” In Greek mythology, Anemone was the name of the daughter of the winds.
coronaria, corona (Latin), “crown”; coronaria, used for garlands, or pertaining for garlands.
The Hebrew name, kalanit, from כלה, kala, ‘bride,’ Aramaic: כולנייתא, as the anemone is as beautiful and majestic as a bride on her wedding day.
Anemone coronaria is traditionally identified as the `lily of the field.’ In Hebrew, the flower is called Kalanit.
The name Kalanit (כלנית מצויה) is derived from Kala (כלה), as the beautiful and majestic anemone is like a bride on her wedding day.
Anemone probably appears Isaiah 17:10 as Namnim:
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The Anemone coronaria is a widespread herbaceous perennial plant growing to 20-40 cm tall, occasionally taller, with a basal rosette of a few leaves, the leaves with three leaflets, each leaflet deeply lobed.
The flowers are borne singly on a tall stem with a whorl of small leaves just below the flower; the flower is 3-8 cm in diameter, with 5-8 red, white, or blue petal-like sepals.
Around Jerusalem, the red shape is more frequent than the blue, while on the basalt slopes north of the Sea of Galilee, the hillside is speckled with blue and white flowers.
Black cumin (Nigella sativa)
Nigella is probably native to western Asia, where it grows both wild and cultivated. Nearly all names of nigella contain an element of black: in Arabic, kamun aswad, “Al-habbat ul Sawda”; in Latin, Nigella (niger).
In some English sources, Nigella sativa is called field black cumin (also known as wild black cumin, oat, or horse black cumin), and grows just 30-45 cm. Tall.
This hairless plant has showy branches with alternating toothed leaves and bright blue flower clusters crowned by a green-striped cup.
The seed capsule of this plant features three to five leaves, each standing halfway up the stem and boasting a long structure with small horns.
The deep black, sharp-cornered seed grains are used as a spice; they have a rough surface and an oily white interior.
They are roughly triangular, 1 1/2 – 3 mm. long, and are similar to onion seeds.
Ground Nigella seeds have a deliciously fragrant taste with subtle hints of oregano, and the aroma is just irresistible. The taste is fragrant and slightly bitter.
Ancient civilizations had long known about the hidden powers of Nigella – its value was treasured by Assyrians, Egyptians, and Asian herbalists for over 3,000 years. For centuries it’s been used to heal a multitude of ailments.
In fact, a bottle of black cumin oil was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
Easton’s bible dictionary clarifies that the Hebrew word for black cumin, qetsach, keh’-tsakh, kezah, refers to, without doubt, Nigella sativa.
- Nigella seeds have a long history of flaunting their flavorful potential in far-reaching corners of the world.
- For example, Romans were known for using these tiny black cumin-like spices to kick up some culinary creations, while Middle Eastern bakers found them indispensable when it came time to craft delicious bread and treats.
- This ancient spice has since become a Middle Eastern staple, and its popularity is skyrocketing in Israel.
- Pliny the Elder (23-79) crushed black seeds, mixed them with vinegar and honey and applied the paste to snake bites and scorpion stings.
- Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-90) used black cumin seeds to treat headaches and toothaches.
- Narrated Abu Huraira (d.678): I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “There is healing in Black Cumin for all diseases except death.”
- The seeds are rich in sterols, especially beta-sitosterol, which is known to have anti-carcinogenic activity. The seeds are also known to repel certain insects and can be used in the same way as mothballs.
Black cumin is an incredibly versatile plant that has as many uses in the kitchen as it does in the garden. It has bright blue flowers, edible seeds, and delicate feathery foliage – making it a beautiful addition to any outdoor space. Plus, you can use its flavourful seeds for cooking too.
It is translated in the Bible as “caraway” (NIV), “fitches” (KJV), and even “dill” (ESV).
Broom (Retama raetum)
See also Psalm 120:4, Jeremiah 17:6; 48:6
Derivation of the botanical name:
Retama, the Hebrew word rotem רותם, seems to be the same as the Arabic word retem, and the retama of the Moors.
Rotem, retem, or retama in Arabic defines a string tied around the finger as a reminder.
Exploring Arab culture, it is believed that the name ‘rotem’ originates from a ribbon that ancient travelers would tie before setting off on a journey.
When a man goes on his journey, if he returns to find the ribbon untouched, then all is well in the relationship.
Alternatively, should the ribbon be gone or untied upon his return, it’s usually interpreted as a sign that she has been unfaithful while he was away.
It is said that the ribbon is tied only onto a rotem (Retama).
The Hebrew name: “rotem” or “rothem” and “r’tamin”, and “ritmah” or “rithmah” (Greek, ραϑμεν) is translated as “juniper,” but is a species of broom known as the white broom, Retama raetam. It is more common than thought when considering flowers in Christianity.
The name Rithmah—a place along the route of the Exodus (Numbers 33:18-19)—was named for this shrub (rothem).
Retama raetam is a “stem-assimilant. The green stem does much of the photosynthesizing, especially during the dry season.
Fruits and flowers provide forage for goats. The stems provide fuel directly and are also converted to charcoal.
Uses for Broom
- It is noted that the Bedouins boil the leaves of Retama raetam (‘ratamals’) in water and use the brew to wash wounds and inflammations.
- Animals are made to drink this brew as a medicine for brucellosis (an infectious disease caused by contact with animals carrying bacteria called Brucella).
- At bedouin marriages and other celebrations, the bedouins fasten sprigs of green plants, such as the Retama raetam, to the entrance of the tent.
Green, the color of live plants, is a symbol of life and vitality.
The white broom is a uniquely dense, twiggy shrub with an interesting life cycle: its small leaves appear just briefly during the wet season, while in late winter, it bursts into massed blooms of delicate white flowers.
Although called juniper in the KJV and ESV, it is unrelated.
Caper (Capparis spinosa)
Derivation of the botanical name:
Capparis (Latin), borrowed from Greek kapparis [κάππαρις], whose origin is unknown but probably West or Central Asia (Alkabara, kabar).
Another theory links kapparis to the name of the island Cyprus (Kypros [Κύπρος]), where capers grow abundantly. Arabic kafara, to be hairy, villous.
Spinosa, “thorny,” refers to the pair of hooked spines at the base of each leaf stalk.
The Hebrew name, tzalaf, zalaph, which in the Bible is a proper name. (Nehemiah 3:30).
Ecclesiastes 12:5 provides us with a poignant reminder of life’s impermanence by referring to the caper fruit, known as ‘evyonah.’ A beautiful bloom quickly fades, shortly after its arrival – scattering seeds and withering away in no time.
Uses for Caper
- Pickled capers have a distinct flavor, and that’s partly thanks to their anti-oxidant ingredient – rutin! You’ll find it as white spots covering the surface of pickled caper. Fun fact: these spots actually come from crystallized rutin during the pickling process.
- Did you know that the caper has a long history as an effective digestive aid? Its use dates back all the way to ancient Greece, where it was used as a carminative – or basically medicine for relieving gas.
- Archaeologists have discovered evidence of ancient Mediterranean flora from the carbonized remains of seeds, and in some rare instances, even flower buds and fruits.
- The caper bush is a fascinating plant, found all over the Middle East. As if adapting to an unusual climate wasn’t enough, it has its own incredible reversal of norms. This bushy powerhouse keeps its vibrant foliage during dry seasons and drops them in wet ones.
Caper produces showy white flowers. Most versions of the Bible translate the word as “desire.”
Daffodil (Narcissus tazetta)
Derivation of the botanical name:
Narcissus, Νάρκισσος, Greek, narkissos, narke “numbness,” because of the plant’s sedative effect.
Tazetta, small cup; common name for Narcissus meaning a small cup, from the form of the corona.
The Hebrew name: נרקיס, narkis, Narcissus; transliteration from the scientific name.
In Greek, it is called Drakakia (Tear Droplets) because the flowers of many species of narcissi droop mournfully; it was long thought to be an omen of death, but simultaneously, they can stand for wisdom (Solomon’s bride, the personification of Wisdom), hope & joy.
Solomon’s bride says that she is “the Rose of Sharon” (which is to say, she is a daffodil), she is naming herself Ha’bazlith or Bazlith (Bazluth), meaning “She is Pealing,” or she has many layers (literally to the layers of an onion-like flower bulb).
Some have supposed the Narcissus tazetta, as the flower Solomon had in mind as the Rose of Sharon.
Havatzelet is not a rose; “The rose of Sharon” (Song of Songs 2:1-2) is a mistranslation.
We’d be hard-pressed not to include this in a list of flowers in the Bible and their meanings!
The Narcissus tazetta is a venerable beauty, having held its regal stature since antiquity. Believed to be the oldest cultivated type of narcissus, this flower was already in bloom when both Egypt and Greece were civilizations on the rise.
This mysterious plant has captivated people around the Mediterranean, from Spain to China – but its true origin remains a mystery.
This exquisite perennial is a sight to behold in late autumn and winter! It has broad gray-green leaves with striking white petals that form beautiful, fragrant blooms crowned with yellow coronas. Its flowering stems are truly unique.
Daffodils are a symbol of eternal life in Christian culture — which makes perfect sense as these flowers in Christianity bloom year after year. It’s like they bring endless renewal and hope, blessing us with new beginnings each season.
Daffodils have long been associated with the idea of rebirth, especially in Christian culture. As one of nature’s earliest blooms to appear each spring, they play an important role as a symbol of spiritual renewal and hope restored.
It is said that these beautiful blooms were birthed when Christ rose from His tomb, forever serving as an emblematic reminder of the resurrection.
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Dill has quite a storied history! Of course, we would include it on our list of flowers in the Bible and their meanings! It’s said that during New Testament times in Judea, it was considered so valuable throughout society that Pharisees chose to tithe with it rather than focus on more important matters such as judgment and the love of God.
Jesus took a tough stance while condemning the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Matthew 23, using an example about tithing spices to underscore his point.
In Luke’s version of this event (Luke 11:42), Luke uses rue instead of dill.
Dill is so much more than a delicious kitchen herb! Its large umbels of yellow flowers and delicate, feathery foliage make it an eye-catching addition to any garden.
Dill has a storied past— native to far-off lands like Northern Africa and Arabia, it’s now an annual favorite in Europe, where home chefs adore its flavorful seeds and leaves.
If you’re looking for a beautiful, fragrant addition to your garden, then the stiff-stemmed plants that grow 3-5′ tall with blue-green leaves are delicately divided into fine segments.
In the midst of a hot summer, enormous umbels bloom up to 10 inches in size and let out tiny but vibrant yellow flowers. These then develop into some of the most wonderfully aromatic seeds.
The word has been translated from Greek as anise or dill, but most translators use the word dill, identified as Anethum graveolens.
Anethum is a Greek term for this plant, and its specific epithet ‘graveolens’ likely derives from Latin – signifying its heavy smell.
For an optimal growing experience, those with a green thumb should seek out cool temps and lots of sunlight for their dill plants. They’ll also need soil that’s moderately nutrient-rich and consistently moist yet well-drained.
It’s important to note that these plants can be susceptible to some pests and diseases like hornworms, aster wilt, and Alternaria blight. To ensure optimal growth of your seedlings it’s best not to disturb them by transplanting – propagating in place is the best method.
Henna (Lawsonia inermis)
Henna is an extraordinary shrub that flourishes in spring with its delicate, white petals and heavenly aroma. In fact, the great romantic poet Solomon was so taken by their beauty he compared his beloved to them.
This exotic shrub is native to the warm climates of Africa, Asia, and Australia. Its elegant slender branches make it a popular choice for many gardens, as its unique evergreen foliage adds year-long charm. Also, known by names such as mignonette tree and Egyptian privet.
Lawsonia is a rare, one-of-a-kind flower that blooms from the loosestrife family. This particular genus also includes two beautiful plants – crepe myrtle and pomegranate.
This stately shrub can reach heights of up to 25 feet, boasting spine-tipped branches. Its elliptical or lanceolate leaves have sharp points and signature indentations on their uppersides, measuring from half an inch to 2 inches in length.
While typically referred to as an evergreen, this plant is still susceptible to a little seasonal change. During dry or cool spells, it loses some of its leaves.
From spring to fall, the garden bursts with scented white flowers that eventually give way to tiny brown seed pods. Each pod holds between 32 and 49 seeds.
Uses for Henna
- People have long appreciated the healing powers of this plant. From wound treatment to renal issues, jaundice, leprosy, and skin diseases – it has been a natural go-to for countless medical ailments.
- For millennia, the vibrant colors of henna have been created by transforming leaves into dyes – and those same hues have been used to adorn skin, hair, nails, and fabrics.
Henna is called camphire in the King James Bible and some other translations.
Hyssop (Origanum syriacum)
See also John 19:29, Hebrews 9:19, Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49-52, Numbers 19:6, 18, 1 Kings 4:33
Hyssop has made a lasting impression on Biblical history – you can find it mentioned in scripture 12 times. It’s one of the most recognizable plants from ancient times.
It is one of the most important to study of the flowers in the Bible and their meanings.
For centuries, lamb’s blood has been a symbol of protection – from the first Passover when it was painted on doorposts to other ceremonial rites. It remains an emblem of defense and security even in modern times.
This fragrant herb is a cousin of oregano, and each summer it blankets gardens in clusters of delicate yellow blooms.
Derivation of the botanical name:
Majorana, Greek, amarakos, ἀμαράκος; Latin, amaracum; the origin of the name is not known, it is possible that it derived from the Sanskrit maruva, मरुव.
Origanum, Latin origanus, origanum, Greek. oreiganon, oros, “mountain”; ganos, “joy”; the joy of the mountain.
Hyssop – an ancient herb with quite a powerful history! Its name has been around since the Greeks and Hebrews, meaning ‘holy herb’ due to its spiritual connection.
The mysterious origins of the medicinal herb Hyssop have sparked debate amongst herbalists for centuries. While this plant closely resembles common varieties like Hyssopus officinalis, its true origin remains a mystery due to it not being native to the Mediterranean area.
The Hebrew name: אזובית, ezovit, Origanum, formed from אזוב with the suffix -it. אזוב marjoram.
Hyssop is a unique wild herb with an aroma like that of oregano. Historically, it was considered so sacred that in Temple times, it would be thrown into the fire when offering up a red heifer as a burnt sacrifice.
Origanum syriacum is thought to be the true Hyssop of the Bible.
Jewish tradition teaches us that pride is often represented by the stately cedar of Lebanon, while humility and modesty are symbolized through the simple hyssop.
Hyssop, symbolizing humility, is often found in religious paintings. This powerful contrast between the lowly herb and majestic cedar tree poetically illustrates King David’s plea for mercy portrayed in Psalms 51:7.
David’s pride overwhelmed him when he took Bathsheba and behaved as a powerful ruler, setting himself far above his people. His sin of arrogance had dire consequences for both him and his beloved kingdom.
David’s plea for penance was so desperate that it could be likened to the cry of a leper – begging desperately for absolution.
King David once mentioned a mysterious plant known as hyssop, which boasts the incredible ability to purify blood. Whether it was truly this same plant is unknown, but modern science has proven its symbolic and medicinal value that extends beyond what we could have imagined back in Psalm 51:9.
At the moment of His crucifixion, Jesus was offered a sponge soaked in sour wine or vinegar. It had been placed on a hyssop branch – an ancient symbol steeped with deep spiritual significance.
This is one of the most important flowers in Christianity.
This showed that the cross was not as high as sometimes portrayed, as the Hyssop branch grows only up to 60 cm long.
Hyssop (Oregano) was often gathered in bunches and used as a brush or sprinkler for purification rituals.
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Hyssop is a popular ingredient in the Middle East. This fragrant mix of spices, known as zatar or za’atar seasoning, has become quite popular. (Hebrew: זתר, Arabic: زَعْتَر)
Za’atar, a beloved plant of Israel’s savory dishes, is so highly prized it even has its own legal protection! Unfortunately, the love for this herb can sometimes be too much, and picking za’atar in large quantities results in hefty fines.
This flavorful mix is made with toasted white sesame seeds, ground sumac, and wild oregano (Origanum syriacum, formerly Majorana syriaca.). It is a perfect combination of earthy notes. Not only can it be used as a seasoning on meats or veggies, but you can also turn this spice into an amazing spread when mixed with olive oil.
NOTE: All marjorams are oreganos, but not all oreganos are marjoram.
Flowers have a special place in the Bible, symbolizing messages of hope, beauty, and joy. We’ve taken a look at some popular varieties associated with Scripture, from Anemone to Hyssop. Though there are many more to explore out there!
Roses, lilies, and jasmine; all come to mind when thinking of Biblical flowers. But there is much more diversity to uncover and symbolism that comes with each one. Stay tuned for part two of this series when we dig into flowers in the Bible and their meanings for flowers J through V.
God never fails to show us creativity and variety in His designs for nature’s wonders!
You may enjoy this video on flowers in the Bible and their meaning.
Or one of these recommended resources:
Sacred Flowers, Holy Trees, & Blessed Thorns: Fifty Plants in the Life of Jesus by Ami Tamir
Trees, Fruits, and Flowers of the Bible by Peter Goodfellow
What else comes to mind when thinking about flowers in the Bible and their meaning? Take some time to dive deep into researching the vast number of plants listed in Scripture and discover how these can uplift you spiritually.
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”