The Secret Language of Flowers

Written by Supernova

Apr 23, 2020

Imagine that you are a spy with a top-secret message. If you couldn’t use words, how would you complete your mission? Well, you could use flowers. Also called floriography, the language of flowers has been ‘spoken’ across the world for centuries. People sent secret messages by giving each other bouquets of flowers with specific meanings. Read on to find out how you can send a flowery secret of your own!


Never touch or pick flowers that you do not recognise because they could be very rare or even poisonous!

Calla Lily


Calla Lily

The word ‘Calla’ means ‘beauty’ in Greek, a fitting name for this summer flower. Calla lilies come in a variety of colours and symbolise majesty, honour and truth.



There are a few different kinds of protea – the Pincushion, the King, and the Madiba protea. They were named after the Greek legend, Proteus, who could hide away by changing into different shapes. The protea is South Africa’s national flower, so it’s only fitting that this flower symbolises diversity, courage and change.

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Many years ago, people carried floral dictionaries with them. These dictionaries had lists of different flowers and their meanings. People also gave each other ‘talking bouquets’.


(Clivia miniate)


Clivias are also called bush lilies and come in a wide variety of shapes and colours. These flowers, especially if they’re yellow or orange, symbolise good fortune. They are much easier to spot than four-leaf clovers so keep your eyes open, it could be your lucky day.

Crane Flower/Bird of Paradise



Do you recognise these flowers? They look just like the blue crane, the national bird of South Africa. Although there are many different meanings, most people agree that these flowers symbolise nobility and pride.

Agapanthus/Lily of the Nile

(Agapanthus praecox)

Agapanthus/Lily of the Nile

This flower’s name comes from the Greek words for love (‘agape’) and flower (‘anthos’). It’s no surprise then that it symbolises deep love and care. These flowers are the ‘love letters’ of floriography.

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Some flowers only bloom after wildfires because they need the heat to germinate. These flowers are pyrophytic.


(Gerbera jamesonii)


This happy, bright flower is a South African favourite and is also called a Barberton daisy. It symbolises cheerfulness. So make
sure to smile when you see one!

A flower’s colour also means something!

This article first appeared in Supernova Volume 8.1

Also In this issue:

  • The Southern Ground-Hornbill
  • Strange Coincidences
  • Myths From Ancient Greece
  • Morse Code
  • The Seven Summits
  • Machu Picchu
  • Chilli Chocolate
  • Zip Line Obstacle Course
  • Unequal Scenes
  • Veterinarian
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