Delphinium are tall, stately flowers that come into bloom in late spring and early summer. People adorned their stalks with small, delicate, bell-shaped flowers which create a cone or spike shape as they taper to a point.
They add height to flower beds and displays, and are a favorite choice for cottages and country gardens. Indeed, the Brits have even given this flower the nickname ‘Queen of the Border’ due to the popularity of planting Delphinium around the borders of the garden.
There are over 300 different species of Delphinium, all from the Ranunculaceae family, which is that of the common buttercup.
Delphinium are perennial flowers (although there are some annual varieties, such as the Larkspur), and they are native to the northern hemisphere. As such, they thrive in cool, moist climates and need much water to survive.
Some small, mountain varieties grow just a few inches tall, whereas other meadow and show varieties can grow as tall as 2 meters in height. They are most commonly blue in color, however people have cultivated it in a host of rainbow colors from yellow, to purple, to pink and white.
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What Does The Delphinium Flower Mean?
Delphiniums are joyful flowers. They widely associated with the summer season, and as such, have come to represent joy, pleasure, youth and renewal.
Also, they are a fun and care-free flower that captures the sensations and memories of youthful abandon, and takes people back to the summer’s of their childhood.
They are all about cheerfulness and friendship, and they are the perfect choice of flower to give to someone who is feeling down or hard-done-by.
Delphiniums’ associations with joy and abandon are exemplified through their associations with dolphins. As a spirit animal, dolphins are all about happiness, playfulness and sociability.
They sing and leap and dance in the waves, just as Delphiniums appear to dance in the wind as they sway.
Delphiniums exude positivity and possibility, and they also symbolize optimism for the future. They grow tall, and their skyward reaching stance is inspirational to those who are searching for self improvement and new opportunities.
These flowers are an excellent choice to give to someone who has a job interview or life event approaching, as they encapsulate good vibes and a can-do attitude.
They also hold connotations of dignity and honor thanks to their upright posture and noble, blue coloring. The Delphinium have first sprung up from the scattered blood of a slain warrior.
As such, associations with duty, honor and sacrifice are also into the flower’s meaning. They are a popular choice to give as celebratory or congratulatory flowers to military servicemen and women who have completed tours or received honors.
Etymological Meaning Of The Delphinium flower
So where does the Delphinium get its name from? Well, as with so many plant and flower names, the word ‘Delphinium’ comes from ancient Greece, in particular, the word ‘Delphinion’, meaning ‘Dolphin’.
Delphinium are not sea flowers, you may be thinking that the name alludes to their blue coloring. However, this is not the case. In fact, the name Delphinium refer to the flower’s arching shape which tapers to a point. It resembles the shape of a dolphin leaping in the waves.
However, when they introduced the plant to Britain in the 1500s, from its home in the Mediterranean, the Tudors saw a different animal likeness. They gave the Delphinium the name ‘Larkspur’ due to the pointed shape of the flower’s nectary, which they thought looked like the spur on a lark’s foot.
If you look closely, you can see what they meant! In Shakespeare’s day, they referred to the flower to as ‘Lark’s Claw’. ‘Lark’s Heels’, and even ‘Knight’s Spur’.
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Symbolism Of The Delphinium flower
These beautiful flowers have multiple symbolic means and associations.
Artistic Inspiration – They link to the traditional English country garden and have a very Romantic and poetic appeal. Their vivid colors and the way that they blow in the wind makes them a favorite with writers and artists. They are symbolic of artistic inspiration.
Cheerfulness And Goodwill – The generosity of the bountiful flowers clustered around each stem of the Delphinium, makes them symbolic of human kindness and generosity towards each other. Their bright, vibrant colors and tall, upright posture exemplifies this association further.
Youth And Playfulness – The fact that Delphiniums grow in summer, dance in the wind, and resemble playful dolphins, all contribute to their symbolic associations with fun, laughter, care-free attitudes and renewal.
Open Heartedness – in Victorian flower language, Delphiniums represented one’s ability to transcend space and time. Nowadays, we interpret this as meaning the ability to embrace whatever comes your way, feel positive about the present and project those feelings into the future as well.
Protection – People used to use Delphiniums in medicines and sleeping potions, and they also repel parasites such as lice and fleas. For this reason people kept them beside their bed at night. They have come to represent protection and healing.
Dignity – the tall posture of these flowers, matched with their true blue coloring, means that they often associated with dignity, grace, and honor.
Delphinium Flower Color Meanings
The most common color for Delphinium flowers is blue, although the shade and hue can differ widely. Some Delphinium varieties have deep, indigo petals, whereas others have ice-blue and powder blue petals.
Over the years, hybridization have cultivated new varieties of Delphinium. The color-span of these flowers has exploded. Delphiniums come in all colors from orange to purple, to pink, and each different color carries a slightly different meaning.
Blue Delphiniums – Blue Delphiniums symbolize youth, renewal and joy. They deeply linked to the summer season, and capture all the emotions and associations that sunshine and birdsong bring.
They bloom at a time of year when gardens are at their most beautiful, and so they also encompass the beauty of nature, and the feelings of care-free, halcyon days.
White Delphiniums – People considered White Delphiniums as noble and dignified. The purity of their petals makes them a particularly graceful and elegant flower with lots of dignity.
People often used them to communicate sympathy to those who have lost someone they love, and to commemorate those who have passed on. They are also a good choice of ‘apology flower’ as they carry meanings of sensitivity and reflection.
Pink Delphiniums – Pink Delphiniums are very pretty and fun, and they generally associated with young love. This does not mean that they are exclusive to young lovers however, but more to love in its earliest stages.
They are flowers that people often give during the honeymoon stage of a relationship. They are giddy and full of affectionate connotations.
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Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Delphinium Flower
There are over 400 different varieties of Delphinium flowers, but very few of them are actually wild. This is because Delphiniums are incredibly popular amongst botanists and cultivators. They also hybridized and cultivated most of the current varieties.
Most types of Delphiniums are perennial, meaning that they regrow each year in the summer. However, Larkspur are a variety of Delphinium that are annual and only last for the single season.
Larkspur have a prolonged flowering period. However, and so most gardeners and enthusiasts like to plant a combination of both to get the most out of these flowers.
Delphiniums can grow pretty tall, so they often need a cane to support them as they grow. They tend to have just one spike of flowers in their first year. Three spikes in their second year, and as many as 50 spikes when they are 8 years old. However, most Delphiniums have a lifespan of closer to 5 years.
Special Occasions For The Delphinium Flower
Delphinium is the official flower of the month of July. They are very much a summer flower and are often used at summer parties and celebrations.
They are a great flower to choose for anyone who has a July birthday. Also, they are wonderful babyshower flowers, thanks to their associations with joy and happiness.
Delphinium Flower Cultural Significance
Delphinium flowers are so beautiful and poetic. They captured the imaginations of artists and writers from all different cultures throughout history.
The ancient Greeks had a story about how Delphinium came to be. The legend goes that when the Trojan war had ended, Achilles’s mother requested that her son’s armour be given to the bravest and most noble warrior as a prize. Achilles died fighting in the war, so it was a deeply meaningful and important gesture.
Ajax was a fearsome warrior, and he was sure that he would receive the armour, however Achilles’s mother decided to bequeath it to Ulysses (a great strategist) instead. Ajax was so wounded and ashamed by her decision, he fell on his own sword.
Where droplets of his blood scattered on the ground, blue Delphinium began to spring up instantaneously. The petals of the flowers were said to be engraved with the word ‘Ai’ which meant alas in ancient Greek.
For this reason, Delphiniums are sometimes associated with grief and passing, and can be given to those who have lost a loved one.
Edward Steichen was an artist and photographer who lived from 1879 to 1973 in America and was famous for fashion photography and cutting edge film making, particularly in the 1930s. However, he is especially remembered for his obsession with the Delphinium flower.
He dedicated his life to growing new hybrid species, and he even exhibited his flowers at the MoMa gallery in New York in 1936. It is the only flower exhibition ever to have been held at the gallery. He went on to become the president of the American Delphinium Society.
The American artist Georgia O’Keeffe famously painted flowers, and the Delphinium was just one of her many floral subjects.
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Delphinium Flower Facts
- Delphinium flower juice can be mixed with alum to make blue ink
- The Delphinium seeds are toxic to humans and animals and can even cause paralysis
- Delphinium used to be used as a sleeping drug to cure insomnia
- The Delphinium are native to the northern hemisphere, and the high mountains of tropical Africa
- Delphinium comes from the Greek word for ‘dolphin’
- The British call Delphiniums ‘Larkspur’ in reference to their spiked shape
- Some varieties can grow as tall as 2 meters in height
- Delphinium is the official flower of the month of July
Delphinium is toxic to both humans and animals, when consumed in large doses. In particular, it’s seeds can cause low blood pressure, the slowing of heart rate, and even lung failure, all due to the extremely high levels of alkaloids in the seeds.
However, this does not mean that the flower does not have its uses. In small doses, Delphinium has been used in medicines to tackle poor appetite, insomnia, intestinal worms, water retention and other ailments. These days, it is avoided due to toxicity.
Delphinium has other uses besides medicinal ones, however. The juice of the flower (especially the D. Consolida variety), when mixed with alum, is used to create blue ink and this has proved extremely useful over the centuries.
Native Americans used the deep blue ink for dying fabrics, whereas Europeans used it for writing, drawing, and printing.
These flowers are thought to repel lice and other parasites, and they can also soothe scorpion stings when rubbed against them. They are also great at attracting butterflies and other pollinators to gardens and flowerbeds.
They are chiefly an ornamental flower, used to brighten any garden or landscape, and a favorite among florists.
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What Is The Symbolism Of An Delphinium Flower Tattoo
As Delphinium flowers are so attractive they are a popular choice for tattoos, and their meaning can be different depending on the individual who has chosen them.
However, most Delphinium tattoos communicate a happy-go-lucky spirit, human generosity and kindness, a playful attitude and a celebration of youth and life.
Some Delphinium tattoos symbolize the loss of a loved and treasured soul.
Delphinium flowers are strikingly beautiful, and it is hard to look upon them without getting a smile on your face. It is for this reason that they have come to symbolize positivity, goodwill, cheerfulness and optimism.
They are a wonderful choice of cut flower to give those who need a boost to their spirits, and they are a perfect choice for any country garden.
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