The calla lily is known across the world for its simple and elegant beauty. The flowers look like trumpets and have a regal understated appeal. They are reminiscent of natural elegance, devotion, and purity.
Calla lilies are a popular favorite for wedding bouquets and celebrations as they look classic and striking.
They represent death and the dying in many cultures. They also hold significant religious meaning for those devoted to Christian beliefs.
It a symbol of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. They as well have associations with the Greek goddesses and legends of everlasting love.
The meaning of calla lilies is as diverse as they are beautiful! So, if you are interested in finding out more about these simple, yet magnificent-looking flowers, read on!
What Does The Calla Lily Flower Mean
Here is a shortlist of various meanings the calla lily holds. It is a unique and wonderful plant that is steeped in symbolism across many countries, sometimes for quite opposing meanings!
- New life– the calla lily is a symbol of a new life for many cultures. This is because when a calla lily dies, it can be reborn. If you take a calla lily that has finished blooming, stop watering it, and leave it in a dark place for a few months, when you reintroduce it to light and water, it will spring back to life!
- Fertility– as calla lilies can reproduce by themselves, they are a symbol of fertility and plenty. They are also a symbol of genderlessness and androgyny, as well as a symbol of the balance between masculine and feminine energies.
- Untimely death– they are a symbol of death and often are used for a young person’s funeral, this is also linked to their symbolism of new life and rebirth. Calla lilies are a good present to those who are grieving, or for a death anniversary.
- Phallic imagery– according to the Romans, the calla lily was a symbol of masculinity and phallic power because of the striking-looking stem that protrudes from its center.
Etymological Meaning Of The Calla Lily Flower
Calla comes from the Greek word for beauty which is ‘kallos’. As the flower shares a resemblance with lilies, the name has stuck, even though they are not of the same flower species at all.
Many also know it as a pig lily, or as an arum lily as well.
Apparently, the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus made a mistake when cataloging the flower for the first time in the mid-1700s, marking it down as a lily variant.
A German botanist called Karl Koch later rectified this error. He also created a new genus for it to go into, the Zantedeschia. However, by this point, the name calla lily had stuck and it remains to this day the most used way of referring to this plant.
Symbolism Of The Calla Lily Flower
According to Christianity, the calla lily is a symbol of the Virgin Mary. It is white, pure, and elegant in its simplicity.
As it has a long-staying power even after cut, the calla lily bloom is a symbol of endurance and thus a symbol of Jesus. According to Christian beliefs, the calla lily’s ability to regrow after laying dormant symbolized His death and resurrection.
According to Greek myth, when Zeus made love to an earth-bound woman, she gave birth to Hercules, who was half-god, half-mortal.
Zeus wanted him to have god-like powers so he drugged his goddess wife Hera.
Whilst his wife Hera was sleeping, he snuck the baby Hercules in to suckle at Hera’s teat to gain immortal powers.
Hera awoke and in rage, threw Hercules away from her. As she threw him, drops of her divine breast milk fell from the heavens and landed on Earth.
From these magical droplets, calla lilies formed, and thus they are symbols of the divine.
For the Romans, the calla lily was a representation of masculinity and its dominant stem was a powerful phallic symbol.
Calla Lily Flower Color Meanings
Whilst people most well knew calla lilies in its pure white form, it grows in many different colors, some of which are very unique and striking.
It is interesting to note what these different colors represent, especially if you intend to plant them yourself or give them as a gift.
- White calla lily– we’ll start with the most popular, the white calla lily has a dual meaning, it represents both new life, everlasting love and also represents death.
This combined meaning proves calla lilies are equally acceptable and at home in both wedding bouquets and at funeral services.
Not something many other flowers can boast! White calla lilies also represent Christian values of purity, virginity, and rebirth.
- Yellow calla lily– the yellow calla lily is a symbol of friendship and gratitude. They are also a symbol of success, making them a perfect gift to acknowledge a big life event in someone’s life such as a new job or graduation!
- Pink calla lilies– pink calla lilies are a symbol of devotion, appreciation, and romance. This makes them the perfect addition to a wedding bouquet along with white calla lilies or white roses.
- Purple calla lily– if you’ve had the pleasure of seeing purple calla lilies, you’ll know that they are a real sight to behold. As with many other purple flowers, they represent royalty, status, achievement, and admiration.
- Black calla lily– black calla lilies are deep and mysterious, they are wonderful striking looking flowers that symbolize elegance and longing.
- Red calla lilies– these beautiful blooms are a universal symbol of love, passion, and courage. These are a wonderful gift if you want to express your devotion to someone without there being any misinterpretation! These flowers mean business and are a little more unique than a red rose.
Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Calla Lily Flower
- Toxic if ingested– it is recommended not to give these flowers to those who have pets or small children as they have a substance in them that can be harmful if ingested.
- Self reproduces– they are grown from rhizomes which means they can reproduce without being pollinated by insects or the weather.
- Not a lily or a calla flower– they are a different species altogether.
- Has no petals– the stem is wrapped in one singular special type of leaf.
- Native to South Africa and Malawi– these flowers grow in hot and humid temperatures.
- Fuss-free– these flowers can survive without too much fuss as long as there is a reliable source of water and heat.
Common in bridal bouquets and at funerals.
Special Occasions For The Calla Lily Flowers
The calla lily has strong associations with Jesus and the Virgin Mary and is a perfect gift to give on religious occasions such as Good Friday, Easter, or Palm Sunday, as well as May Day and other religious celebrations or days of remembrance.
They are also a potent reminder of deep astounding beauty and new life and resurrection, so they are a good choice for funerals and days of remembrance, such as death anniversaries.
Calla lilies are a universally beautiful flower. People often used it as a minimal, yet formal-looking wedding bouquet, and just a few simple blooms can have a very striking impact.
Calla lilies are also a great Mother’s day gift or a great gift for any birthday celebration.
As they are poisonous if ingested, be sure that whoever you are sending them to does not have small children or pets around!
Calla Lily Flower Cultural Significance
They are a representation of new life, death, and rebirth.
You can often find them at funeral events, wedding celebrations, and in many garden displays across the globe.
The calla lily is significantly a representation of masculine and feminine energies and as a sexual-looking flower, popularized by the stunning work of artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
Calla Lily Flower Facts
The calla lily is an incredibly interesting flower that looks quite baffling at first glance compared to traditional many-petalled flowers that we may be more used to seeing in our everyday lives. Here are some interesting flower facts about these unique looking flowers:
- They are not lilies!– In fact, they are also not even calla flowers. The calla lily is part of the Araceae family of plants.
- They have been around forever– the earliest known remains of the calla lily go back as far as the Jurassic period- we know this because they were ingested by pterodactyls, though likely they have been present for even longer than this.
- If a calla lily dies, it can be reborn again– this is why there is so much representation of the calla lily in Christian symbolism.
- Poisonous- the calla lily contains a substance called calcium oxalates, these can cause burning, swelling, nausea, and even heart palpitations if ingested! It is highly recommended to not keep these flowers around pets or children just in case of ingestion.
- No petals– the beautiful singular petal around the stem of a calla lily is not a petal at all! It is a leaf called a spath or flower bract that surrounds the flower spike or spadix in the center.
- Boiled for traditional medicinal use– when boiled down with hot water or other liquid, the calla lily loses its calcium oxalates (the irritating poisonous bits) and this leftover boiled plant was used as a salve to treat wounds or as a way to cure headaches, though this has since not been backed by modern medicine.
- Reproduce on their own– calla lilies do not require cross-pollination like most plants! They can reproduce on their own, which makes them a symbol of fertility and plenty.
- Can survive many tough terrains– you’d assume by its delicate appearance that the calla lily wouldn’t be hardy, but in fact, it can survive in almost any environment that has a decent level of humidity.
Calla Lily Flower Uses
Cultures used calla lilies for many different reasons:
As funeral flowers– one of the most memorable and reused meanings throughout the centuries has been the use of calla lilies as funeral flowers. Many often gives them to those who are grieving or placed on top of burial grounds and tombs to symbolize everlasting love.
As wedding flowers– people often use it in wedding bouquets due to their unique shape and elegant appearance. It may seem counterintuitive to be both a symbol of wedding joy and death, but they are a symbol of everlasting love, which ties these two meanings together.
Calla lilies are extremely toxic and ingestion is fatal.
As a salve for wounds– in South Africa, they used underground bulb and stem of the calla lily as a salve to dress wounds when soaked in milk.
Air purifier– the calla lily is a natural air purifier in your home, it absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen. They also absorb airborne pollutants in your home.
Headaches– people traditionally used calla lilies as a headache cure when boiled with the water and steeped as a tea to ingest. They do not recommend this nowadays however. Such is because the calla lily is poisonous and touching certain parts of it can give a nasty irritation.
What Is The Symbolism Of A Calla Lily Flower Tattoo?
Calla Lilies are often tattooed as a symbol of remembrance. This can be for any close loved one, as they are both beautiful but also not overly effeminate.
They are also a symbol of overcoming difficulties or overwhelming odds. They easily regrow when they wither and die, even though their lifespan is short.
For those who have strong Christian faith, the calla lily tattoo is a symbol of this. It often represent biblical stories, such as the death and rebirth of Christ, and as a symbol of purity to represent the Virgin Mary.
Because the calla lily is able to rebirth many shoots, they are symbol of overcoming one’s past and putting a dark secret or past behind them for good.
The calla lily is also a flower that symbolizes the balance and beauty of both the masculine and the feminine. It can be a tattoo that symbolizes androgyny or a balance of gender identity.
Many use the beautiful trumpet appearance of the flowers in bouquets as well and are naturally just stunning flowers. So some people may simply get them as tattoos without any particular meaning attached to them.
The calla lily is a beautiful and unique flower that is not truly a lily, or a calla flower. It is a symbol of new life, death, and resurrection and has strong symbolic links to Christianity in the modern day.
They are a flower that represents the innocence and purity of life, and to appreciate the gifts around you.
The calla lily is poisonous and not pet-friendly, so bear this in mind if you are bringing it into your home. They have a short but beautiful lifespan and represent enjoying every moment of fleeting life.
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