Mayflower Meaning, Spiritual Symbolism, Color Meaning & More

If the name Mayflower sounds significant to you, that’s because we all had to learn about it in Elementary school. It was the name given to the ship the pilgrims sailed on, to what would later become America. But did you know that the Mayflower actually got its name from a plant?

Mayflower Meaning

What Does The Mayflower Mean 

Now, there are actually two different types of Mayflower plants. The Mayflower also known as Lily of the Valley, and the Mayflower known as Trailing Arbutus. The original Mayflower, Lily of the valley, was discovered in England.

Then when the pilgrims arrived on plymouth rock, they found the Trailing Arbutus and decided the plant made them homesick for their lily of the valley and decided to name this new plant Mayflower too. 

Hence the name is a sense of nostalgia. The Mayflower we’re going to be looking at is the latter one, the Trailing Arbutus. So when you see the word Mayflower that’s what we’re referring to, not Lily of the Valley.

This Mayflower is currently the state flower of Massachusetts, and of Nova Scotia in Canada. 

Mayflowers are small, usually surrounded by leaves, are white/pinkish and bell shaped wildflowers. They are common in woodland areas. When it comes to plants, they’re actually very picky about where they grow.

Because of this, they’re actually illegal to pick in certain states like New York, and considered a rare species. 

A Mayflower is usually representative of hard times coming to an end. In some cases it heralds the arrival of spring, just as its namesake does in England. 

Etymological Meaning Of The Mayflower 

The name Mayflower comes from the original Mayflower, the Lily of the Valley, in England. The pilgrims likely named the flower after Lily of the Valley because the shrub and flower reminded them of the plant. That’s why this Mayflower is sometimes referred to as False Lily Of The Valley. 

The Mayflower’s scientific, Latin, name is Epigaea Repens. The name was given by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. The name literally translates to ‘creeping on the earth’.

It refers to the way the wildflower shrub grows close to the ground and sprawls out, almost like it’s running on the soil. 

Symbolism Of The Mayflower 

Because it was the pilgrims that found and popularized the Mayflower plant, obviously the symbolism behind the Mayflower means purity and virtue. Projecting much?

Those pilgrims sure loved their purity and virtue for a group of people responsible for massacres upon massacres of the Native population. 

Interestingly, though the Mayflower grows abundantly in some states (like Massachusetts and Virginia), it’s actually very hard to grow. In fact, any attempts to move or dig up the plant for transportation, will often result in it dying. 

The plant is symbolic of a delicate or precarious situation. Just like when the pilgrims were sailing for the new world and settling in a different land, without knowing if they would survive.  

On the reverse, sometimes you can find Mayflowers growing on the sides of roads. For such a tricky flower to grow they sure pick and choose where and when to sprout. This relates to the second symbolism behind the flower.

That is that, in even the most tricky and difficult situations, something beautiful can bloom. Alternatively it can also mean that you can’t force something good.

Good things will happen naturally and the best thing you can do is be patient and continue doing your best. 

If you were to give a Mayflower to someone it has a very positive meaning. First, it’s a sign that you think of that person as a close friend and want to show them that you will always be there for them. It’s a show of support. Mayflowers also represent peace, and harmony.

That’s why Mayflowers were considered good gifts if you were looking to smooth over a feud or find a fragrant way to say sorry.

Mayflowers are such small, adorable looking flowers with heart shaped leaves and soft petals, which smell so divine that it would be hard to hold a grudge after receiving a bushel of these. 

Mayflower Color Meanings 

The colors of Mayflower do more than make it look good. Colors have a lot of meaning behind them. When you think of blue, you think of sadness, picture yellow and it’s sunshine and happiness all over. That’s why daffodils are such cheery looking plants.

Mayflowers are no different. Their color and shape are what give birth to different meanings behind the flower.

Mayflowers have leaves that are heart shaped, green and covered with tough, miniscule, brown hairs. The flowers that protrude from the bushels are white or sometimes light pink, or deep pink.

The color white is the reason behind the innocence and purity symbolism that is attached to the flower.

Because of their sometimes pink flowers, Mayflowers can also represent harmony, friendship, peace, and approachability. Giving a Mayflower was a sign of friendship and a sign that the giver is a person who will always be there. 

Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Mayflower 

The Mayflower has beautiful white or pink flowers that are scattered among tough, leathery, leaves with brown hairs all over. The pretty flower part gives off a smell so sweet and great that it is thought to be unmatched by any perfume out there, as said by Mayflower lovers.

Definitely not biased. The incredible smell is what makes the Mayflower so popular. And in fact, before it became a protected state flower, it was nearly plucked into extinction for the aroma.

The tough leathery leaves also have their own clever purpose. Since the leaves are rough in texture, and covered in unappealing little hairs, they make the plant unattractive to many herbivorous animals and contribute to its survival. 

Mayflower Meaning

Special Occasions For The Mayflower 

Thanksgiving is always a pretty big holiday for the Mayflower. This goes back to the original story of the Mayflower ship, which the pilgrims sailed on.

So the symbolism is really heavy on that day. Every Thanksgiving people gather and remember the original Mayflower, and remember the lies and bloodshed that the great old USA was founded on. 

Every year, on January first, the Rose Bowl Parade occurs. This is a special occasion, especially for florists, with amazing floral floats from all over the country. The parade is in Pasadena and flocked to by thousands.

Each year there’s a Mayflower float, symbolic of the ship, covered in Mayflowers and smelling absolutely amazing, honoring the plant and our history. 

Mayflower Cultural Significance 

If you don’t think the Mayflower is culturally significant then you’re not paying attention. Whether you support or condemn the history behind the Mayflower, you can’t deny its importance in how our society was shaped.

All of that war and death and ill-gotten advancement is encapsulated by this flower. 

For those of you who don’t know, here’s a brief history. In the 1600s there was a lot of civil unrest in England. The monarchy had been overthrown and replaced by a puritan state, which religious radicals absolutely loved.

Then, after realizing just how corrupt and depressing the puritan state was, the people revolted and got the monarchy back. Obviously there were those who were not happy about that and preferred a more strict, religious state.

So they packed up their things and boarded a ship called the (you guessed it) Mayflower, and headed to what is now known as America. 

Obviously we brush over the fact that once they got there they took advantage of the humble and helpful Native locals, gifted them smallpox blankets on purpose to infect them, and went on to wipe out whole tribes, steal land, break treaties, butcher and persecute Native children, and attempted to erase a whole culture that predated them.

Anyway, we call these people the Pilgrims. And when the pilgrims saw a plant that looked like the Mayflower of their homeland, they decided to name it after the plant. 

For decades, the Mayflower was so popular because of its significance, symbolism, beauty, and great fragrance. Wherever it grew, forests, roadsides, fields, it was likely to be picked. Most times it was picked and placed in your house for the smell, or just by the threshold.

In fact the Mayflower was being picked so much that it was almost pushed into near extinction. However, in the 1900s, a group of environmental activists got involved and tried to think of a good way to get the flower protected. 

Their idea was brilliant. They decided to campaign for the Mayflower to become the state flower of Massachusetts. This is because state flowers are protected by law. Once a flower becomes a state emblem, it becomes illegal to dig it up.

They lobbied for the Mayflower to be the state flower for years and eventually managed to get it to a vote. It was between the Mayflower and the Water Lily. The vote was close, but it was the younger voters who closed the deal.

They voted in waves for the Mayflower to be Massachusetts state flower, understanding its cultural significance and knowing that this was the best way to get the flower protected. 

And now the rest is history. The Mayflower is the official state flower of Massachusetts and it is very, very illegal to dig one up. Punishment can range from a small fine to a hefty one depending on just how many you dig up and how much damage you do. 

Mayflower Facts 

  • Digging up a Mayflower is a $50 fine in Massachusetts.
  • The seeds of a Mayflower are actually dispersed by ants, not by bees like with the majority of other flowers. 
  • The Mayflower is named after the pilgrims’ ship Mayflower, which was also named after the English flower Mayflower. 
  • The Mayflower has rough leaves to discourage animals and people from eating it.
  • The Mayflower represents purity, approachability, and peaceful relationships. 
  • The leaves of a Mayflower are often bigger than the flower part. 
  • The Mayflower is sweet smelling and considered one of the nicest natural fragrances to occur. It’s not used in many perfumes because it’s illegal to disturb a Mayflower in many states. 
Mayflower Meaning

Mayflower Uses 

Because of its protected nature, though the Mayflower used to be used for certain things, nowadays it’s just used to look pretty where it sits.

Before that, a common use of Mayflower was as a quick odor fix. Before perfumes were popular, people would go and grab bushels of Mayflowers and hang them around their home to cover up bad smells and leave a sweet aroma in its place. 

Native tribes, who were far more aware of how useful Mayflower was, used it in their medicine. A blend of the leaves was used to cleanse the kidneys and for other kidney disorders.

A concentrated liquid made from Mayflower was an excellent remedy for stomach pains, as well as also being an effective allieviant for rheumatism.

These remedies from the Mayflower never became popular in folk medicine, and were eventually lost along with loads of other information about Native culture. 

What Is The Symbolism Of A Mayflower Tattoo

Mayflowers are beautiful plants, and would make excellent tattoos. Because of their color they symbolize someone with purity i.e. pure intentions, who would also make an excellent friend. One of the key meanings behind a Mayflower tattoo is a ‘return to happiness’.

These tattoos are usually representative of someone who’s gone through a lot of pain but is ready to come back to the light, and experience the joy the world has to offer. A Mayflower tattoo is not to be taken lightly. Though it may look florally and sweet, it’s a very hardcore tattoo. 

Final Thoughts…

The beautiful and sweet smelling Mayflower is so rich in cultural history that it’s protected. This flower is incredibly significant to American history. But Just remember kids, as pretty as the Mayflower is, the pilgrims committed atrocities that have yet to be apologised for or amended by the US Government. But what a great plant.

Gloria White

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