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The Language of Flowers: Herb Symbolism

Communicating with the unspoken language of flowers is known as floriography, an art that has been practiced for thousands of years throughout the globe. The practice reached its peak in Europe during the Victorian era, when messages deemed inappropriate to speak aloud were communicated by wearing or giving talking flower bouquets known as nosegays.

There is also a long history of flower symbolism in art and literature. Although many artists and authors utilized the language of flowers in their works, William Shakespeare may be the most prolific among authors to encrypt symbolic meanings in his plays. One of the best known examples is the reference made by Ophelia to her brother Laertes and an unseen Hamlet: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.”

Not surprisingly, many herbs are attributed with linguistic powers -- not just ornamental flowers. Here is an extensive but by no means complete list of the meaning of specific herbs:

Angelica -- Inspiration

Basil -- Friendship

Bee Balm -- Virtue

Borage -- Courage

Calendula -- Sadness

Chamomile -- Patience

Chervil -- Sincerity

Chives -- Purpose

Cilantro -- Hidden feelings

Clover (red) -- Industry

Dill -- Hope

Fennel -- Strength

Geranium -- Happiness

Hyssop -- Cleanliness

Lavender -- You are loved

Lemon Balm -- Renewal, Sympathy

Marjoram -- Joy

Mint -- Wisdom

Nasturtium -- Conquest

Parsley -- Celebration

Rosemary -- Remembrance

Rue -- Grief, Remorse

Saffron -- Marriage

Sage -- Wisdom

Santolina -- Virtue

Savory -- Curiosity

Southernwood -- Steadfast

Sweet Woodruff -- Humility

Tansy – Hostility

Tarragon – Loyalty

Thyme – Boldness

Valerian – Reconciliation

Violet – Modesty

Yarrow -- Health

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