What is the Birth Flower of February?
The Birth Flower of February is the iris, a colorful little flower that, come springtime, blooms all over the world. A subject of paintings, poetry, photographs, and more, this famous flower brings joy and vibrant color as the winter winds down. Read on to learn more about the history and symbolism of iris.
The farthest we can trace back the iris flower is to Ancient Greece, where drawings of the plant are still visible on palace walls today. It was also aptly named after Iris, the Greek goddess of rainbows due to the wide variety of colors irises come in. It’s popularity only grew from there, with paintings found inside Egyptian pyramids that date back to 1500 BC. In Japanese culture, the iris is believed to be a source of purification, and is thought to protect against evil spirits. The bloom is commonly found on fabrics and art throughout Japan. In China, the definition of iris translates to “the purple butterfly,” after the way the petals dance in the wind. Irises also served as inspiration for Vincent van Gogh, namely his famous piece, “Irises.” It is also widely recognized as the floral emblem of France, the fleur-de-lis.
Irises come in a ton of beautiful colors, and are most famous for their shades of blues, a rare color for cut flowers. They belong to the Idraceae family, along with freesia and crocuses. Once they bloom, the flower’s petals open up and show the center, fondly referred to as the heart. They grow best in northern climates, and are thought to have been brought to North America from Europe in the early 1600s. There are varieties of iris flowers that can be used both medicinally and aesthetically. They have been used to alleviate coughs and allergies, and sweet iris has been used in perfumes.
The Greek goddess, Iris, was believed to be a messenger of the gods, bridging heaven and earth. This led to the symbolism of creating an arc, and she became the personification of the rainbow. Thus, because of all the colors iris can bloom in, it was named after the goddess. The goddess, on her arc, was believed to escort and guide the deceased to their final resting place. This association created a tradition of planting irises on the graves of loved ones, hoping Iris would guide them to heaven. In turn, the gift of irises symbolizes giving a message, eloquence, and communication.
Specific colors have their own meanings as well: Purple brings a message of wisdom, while blue represents hope and faith. Yellow irises are for passion, and white for purity. The iris also symbolizes vulnerability, as it opens its petals to reveal its heart, a lovely sentiment that reminds us of our connection to nature.