The fluttering petals of the cyclamen, combined with the bowed stem, gives this flower a charming silhouette. With colors ranging from restrained pastels to bold reds, it can bring life to a winter garden.
And as the perennial plant is made up of 23 species, you have plenty of options to choose from.
Cyclamen is typically seen as a symbol of devotion, love, and empathy. It can be found in many religious settings, but also in the homes of happy couples. Much of the symbolism of the flower is derived from its shape.
The florist’s cyclamen is a popular choice for gifting, because it’s so distinctive yet easy to care for. Learn more about the meaning behind this flower, what it symbolizes, and how it can be used, with this guide to the wonderful flower.
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What Does The Flower Mean?
When someone gives you an arrangement of cyclamen, you’re likely to be charmed by their delicate coloring and unusual shape. You might also be intrigued by the meaning of the gift. They are typically associated with love, devotion, and empathy.
The meaning of the flower can be religious. It is often planted around churchyards, and its bowed head recalls quiet devotion.
On the other hand, it can be a gesture of love. The flower might be given as a gift indicating a deep commitment.
Some consider the it to have a slightly darker meaning. The often poisonous plant can be considered a symbol of change, or a warning of danger.
Etymological Meaning Of The Flower
The name for this flower is thought to come from the appearance of the tuber. The tuber is the storage organ for the flower, and it’s quite round.
This led to the Medieval Latin name “cyclamen”, which came from the Latin “cyclaminos”, which was itself derived from the Greek “kyklaminos”. The Greek term was based on the term “kyklos”, meaning circle. So, it was known for the round tuber, and named after it.
In some languages, it is referred to as “swinebread” or “sowbread”. This was because pigs were said to eat it.
The most common cyclamen is the florist’s cyclamen, which is a cultivar of the Cyclamen persicum. This translates to Persian cyclamen.
Symbolism Of The Flower
The cyclamen is not a particularly showy plant. The small flowers are attractive in color and shape, but they don’t stand out as much alongside the big, bold blossoms. The beauty of this flower is quiet, and this is reflected in what it symbolizes.
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If you take a look at it, you’ll notice the way that the stem curves. This gives the impression that it has its neck bowed. With the delicate petals falling backwards, it can look as though the cyclamen has its head bowed in prayer.
Because of this, the cyclamen is used to symbolize devotion. It is often dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Empathy is another emotion that the bowed head of the flower can be used to symbolize. The delicate flower can seem very unassuming, and with the gentle curve of its neck, it can symbolize sympathy and sorrow.
But don’t take this meaning the wrong way. It represents a pure emotion, and is given as a symbol of understanding.
A related meaning is that of sincerity, and a devotional love. It might be given to someone to show your pure intentions, and your intensity of feeling.
However, there is one meaning of the cyclamen that you should be aware of. It can be poisonous, and sometimes the flower is used to indicate hidden dangers. It might also be a flower you give at a break-up. Some see it as a symbol of “goodbye”.
Flower Color Meanings
The colors of flowers can give a different meaning to the symbolism, or provide a new context. This flower comes in many shades of whites, reds, pinks, and purples. The colors can be bold and quite striking, or muted pastels that add to the devotional image of the cyclamen.
White cyclamen can have a meaning of innocence and purity. White flowers are often related to young girls, as the flowers are seen as feminine and youthful. The empathetic and devotional symbolism of this flower is especially apparent when white. It has a small burst of color at the base of the head, which relates to the symbolism of the Virgin Mary. The color is said to symbolize the blood of Christ.
Pink cyclamen are much more playful than their white counterparts. Like the white colored, they can be seen as a symbol of thoughtfulness. But the pink can also be a representation of a new or young love. They represent the possibility of things to come. Also, pink variants are particularly feminine, and might be given as a gift at the start of a relationship. They’re seen to symbolize the shy and modest, but can add a playful element to the meaning.
Red cyclamen is the most intensely colored of all the cyclamen. As with other red flowers, this is a symbol of romantic love. For this flower, this love takes on the meaning of devotion. It is a plant that can last for many years, and survive even difficult weather conditions. Because of this, it symbolizes a true and lasting love. A red variant could be a gift for a person you want to share your heart with.
The purple cyclamen can be a symbol of creativity and charm. They’re considered a good gift for a person making a change in life. But the purple variant can also be seen as sorrowful. You might give it as a leaving gift, to someone you respect, but will miss.
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Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Cyclamen Flower
The shape of the cyclamen is quite striking. The stem is bent, so that the nose of the flower points downwards, similar to a bowed neck. There are five petals on the flower and they bend outwards or upwards. The petals are connected at the base, forming a cup shape.
The petals of this flower can be long and thin, short and wide, or somewhere in between. Petals are typically darker around the nose. This darker rim takes a different shape across the species. Sometimes the dark color is an unbroken line, but it can be streaks or dots.
Its leaves are quite unique. They’re typically green with silver markings that create an unusual patterning.
Frost-hardy cyclamen can survive in tough environments, leading to the understanding of it as a symbol of devotion. But some varieties are frost-tender, and need to be kept inside over the winter months.
It is best planted in the early fall. The leaves will come in first, and then it will blossom in winter, before dying in spring. Over the summer months, it will grow dormant. This was to compensate for the dry summer.
Special Occasions For The Cyclamen Flower
This flower may have some negative meanings attached, but it’s most commonly seen as a gift of sincerity. If someone has been having a difficult time, then it can be given as a gift of empathy. The beautiful but restrained cyclamen shows that you’re thinking of someone.
Red cyclamen is a symbol of deep devotion. It can be given as a gift to a person you care deeply for. For Valentine’s Day or a winter anniversary, it is a heartfelt gift.
Florist’s cyclamen is a relatively easy to care for plant, which makes it a fantastic gift for many occasions.
In the Victorian era, they grew in popularity. As a winter blossom, it was seen as a Christmas flower. The red variant looks particularly good as a Christmas ornament. You might give it for Christmas, or during advent.
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Flower Cultural Significance
You will often see the cyclamen planted around churchyards, monasteries, and Islamic ribats. It would be planted in these areas as a symbol of devotion.
One nickname for cyclamen is “Solomon’s crown”. Many says that the flower was the inspiration for the crown of King Solomon.
Because of the poisonous nature of the flower, it was recognized as a danger by many cultures. One superstition warned pregnant women to avoid even stepping over these flowers. Doing so was said to cause miscarriage. But tossing it over your shoulder was said to speed up difficult labor.
However, it wasn’t just seen as a threat. A tea made from the flower was rumored to be a cure for baldness. It was also said that putting this flower up your nostril could encourage the hair to grow.
To the Ancient Greeks, it was a symbol of love and lust. Using it in food was said to make a person fall madly in love with you.
Cyclamen is native to the Middle East, and southern and Central Europe.
To grow a florist’s cyclamen at home requires indirect sunlight and moderate temperatures. Water the flower once a week in summer, and less often in winter. Over summer, it should be kept in a cool and dry area. If the cyclamen gets too much sunshine or heat, it will go dormant.
If you rub the tubers of the Persian cyclamen with water, it produces something like a lather. For this reason, the tuber was sometimes used to make soap.
With proper care, a florist’s cyclamen can live to be up to 30 years old. A well cared for cyclamen might flower for 20 to 30 years.
Cyclamen was thought to have been brought to Greece by monks.
Another name for the cyclamen is “sowbread” or “swinebread”. Cyclamen got this nickname because it was said to be one of the favorite foods of wild pigs.
The cyclamen was once the national flower of Israel. A 2007 poll elected the Cyclamen persicum as the national flower, and the representative for Israel at the “We Are One World” botanical exhibition. However, the cyclamen lost its position in 2013, when a larger poll elected the Anemone coronaria as the national flower.
The Cyprus cyclamen is the national flower of Cyprus. This cyclamen is endemic to the island of Cyprus.
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Cyclamen Flower Uses
The leaves of the cyclamen can be eaten, and taste bitter with a slight sweetness. A traditional use of the cyclamen leaves is as a wrap for a mixture of meat and rice.
However, avoid eating any other part of the cyclamen, as they’re often poisonous to humans. In some instances, the tubers can be roasted and made safe to eat, but it’s best to avoid consumption.
Cyclamen has been used in medicine since the times of Ancient Greece, and this use persisted for centuries. Cyclamen was said to speed up childbirth, treat snake bites, and heal various aches and pains. However, the toxicity of cyclamen has meant it’s rarely used in modern day medicines.
The best use for the cyclamen is decoration. Attractive and easy to care for, this bloom can add color and life to a dull winter garden.
What Is The Symbolism Of A Cyclamen Flower Tattoo?
The delicate lines of the cyclamen, combined with its unusual shape, can create a lovely tattoo design. A cyclamen tattoo can be a symbol of devoted love.
You may choose one to honor a partner, or a close friend or family member. The devotional aspect of cyclamen symbolism can also be used in remembrance of a departed loved one.
Cyclamens have a devotional meaning, so a cyclamen tattoo can be a symbol of your spiritual connection. Or it might be an expression of commitment. Overall, a cyclamen tattoo is about pure and devoted love.
Deciphering the symbolism of the cyclamen can seem difficult at first. Some consider this poisonous flower to have a darker meaning, one of loss and danger. But with the elegant curve to the cyclamen stem, this flower is more strongly associated with devotion and love.
A winter flower that can often be found around churches and monasteries, the cyclamen brings cheer in moments of contemplation.
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