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Cyclamen is a beautiful plant with flowers that resemble butterflies. It’s native to Europe and countries near the Mediterranean Sea and Iran. Also known by several other names including Persian Violet and Sowbread, this plant has various meanings and symbolism in different parts of the world.
In this article, we’ll take a look at everything there is to know about Cyclamen flowers, their origin, meanings, and symbolism.
What are Cyclamen Flowers?
Cyclamen is a perennial plant that belongs to the Primulaceae family, which includes the shooting star and primrose. There are 23 species of Cyclamen, all of which are perennial and each varying in hardiness and appearance. Most grow leaves in the fall and bloom during winter and the plant dies in spring. In the summer, it remains dormant and will not grow.
The roots of the Cyclamen and the aerial parts emerge from a spherical part called the gland, which stores food for the plant. It’s a tuberous plant with a stem that’s bent down 150 to 180 degrees and petals that grow upward. Its flowers are solitary and inverted on tall branches which is what makes them unique. They’re found in various colors, typically white, pink, purple, and red. In floriculture, the Cyclamen is considered a greenhouse flower, but some varieties can also be grown on grass or on the rock.
Of the many different species of cyclamen, the Cyclamen persicum is the only species that’s gained popularity as a houseplant. Its name is derived from the Latin word ‘cyclamnos’ which means ‘circular’, or the Greek word ‘kuklos’ meaning ‘circle’. It’s believed that this name refers to the way the stem of the Cyclamen flower curls downwards once the seeds have formed.
This species originated in Persia, which is known as present-day Iran. According to Plato, the plant existed back in the 4th century BC.
Quick Facts about Cyclamen:
- Cyclamen is also called ‘Sowbread’ since it was used to feed pigs to enhance the flavor of pork.
- During the Renaissance period, cyclamen flowers were believed to heal ear aches since the shape of the leaves was similar to the shape of ears.
- Cyclamen is also native to west Asia and north Africa.
- Some cyclamens can grow from 15-25 centimeters in height.
- Cyclamens are used as an ingredient in many perfumes.
- According to certain sources, Persian cyclamen was brought to Northern Africa and the Greek Islands by monks.
Cyclamen Flower Meaning and Symbolism
The Cyclamen flower has different meanings and symbolism in various parts of the world. Let’s take a look at some of the most well-known meanings behind it:
1. Deep Love
Due to its tuber which allows the cyclamen plant to withstand even the most difficult conditions, the cyclamen flower is regarded as a symbol of deep love. This is why these flowers make wonderful gifts on Valentine’s Day, along with roses. Giving someone cyclamen is a way of expressing genuine love. In Japan, this flower is called the ‘Holy Flower of Love’ and is considered as Cupid’s love child. This is another reason why it’s associated with Valentine’s Day.
Since ancient times, cyclamens have been depicted in various paintings of lovers and were considered a flower of love. This flower has existed since ancient times in paintings that are drawn for two lovers. In the language of love, this flower expresses genuine feelings and sincerity.
2. Devotion and Empathy
In Mediterranean culture, the cyclamen is regarded as a symbol of devotion and empathy. This is why cyclamen can be seen planted in churchyards and Islamic monasteries.
3. Virgin Mary
The cyclamen flower is also associated with the Virgin Mary. In both Islam and Christianity, the Virgin Mary plays a major role. One of the connections between the Virgin Mary and the cyclamen is that when Mary accepted the mission of motherhood, it’s said that cyclamen flowers bowed to her.
4. Hidden Enemy
Certain parts of the cyclamen plant are toxic to both humans and animals. These hidden parts can cause death if ingested which is why this flower represents a hidden enemy.
Symbolism of Cyclamen According to Color
As mentioned above, cyclamen flowers come in a range of colors and shades from pure white to lavender, red, and purple. In the language of flowers, each color has its own significance.
The white cyclamen flower symbolizes purity, innocence, perfection, and elegance. It’s also associated with the chastity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A dark, reddish color can be seen under the white petals of the cyclamen flower and this is believed to represent the blood of Jesus. White cyclamen is sometimes called ‘bleeding heart’ and it’s said that the fragrance of the Virgin Mary sits on these flowers, giving them their delightful smell.
All red flowers are generally regarded as symbols of love and passion. The same goes for the red cyclamen which also symbolizes desire and seduction.
Superstitions About Cyclamen
Throughout history, there have been many superstitions about the cyclamen flower due to its toxicity and beauty. Here are some of the most common:
- One famous superstition about the cyclamen flower that seems to have originated in the 16th century is that a pregnant woman who steps over one or more of these flowers would suffer a miscarriage or give birth too soon. It’s a popular belief that pregnant women should avoid any place where cyclamen flowers are grown and that they should not touch or go near the plant. However, it’s also believed that if a woman in labor throws a cyclamen flower over her shoulder or wears a necklace made out of these flowers, labor will be faster and much less painful.
- It was also a popular belief that cyclamen had the ability to help bald men regrow their hair. In order to make the flower work, however, the bald man would have to insert it into his nostrils and it would help his hair grow back.
- Another superstition about the cyclamen flower is that anyone who wanted to make someone fall in love with them could do so by gifting them the flower. The pair would live happily ever after, but if the receiver of the flower realizes that they fell in love because of the cyclamen, the giver would be doomed to live a sad life forever.
Uses of Cyclamen Flowers
Cyclamen first made its ways into the gardens of Europe back in the 1600s. In the 1800s, the Victorians began breeding the plant into the various cultivars that are commonly seen today. The Victorians used the beautiful ‘winter’ flowers for Christmas decorations, and they became highly popular for decorative purposes during the Christmas season.
The Cyclamen flower has a long history of use in medicine, used for over 2,000 years. Greek physicians and botanists found that the flower could be used to speed up childbirth, promote hair growth, heal wounds, pimples, and so much more.
Cyclamen is known to be toxic and unsafe for consumption. However, it’s often added to substances used to treat snake bites and, in some regions, it’s dried, roasted, and enjoyed as a delicacy. It’s used as a nose spray by people who suffer from nasal congestion, since it can clear the sinuses. It can also help with skin problems such as blemishes or pimples, used as a plaster, and to ease sunburn.
Cyclamen flowers are historically significant and valued for their beauty. They’re often used for floral decorations and can sometimes be seen in wedding bouquets. In general, these beautiful flowers symbolize love, sincerity, and innocence, so they make excellent gifts for the special people in your life. If you’re considering gifting someone a cyclamen flower, you can make the gift special and more personalized depending on the color you choose.