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Gillyflower Symbolism: From Gardens to Gestures

The gillyflower has a beautiful look and enticing scent that will attract anyone’s attention. In fact, this flower is often used in bridal bouquet, in décor and given as gifts. The gillyflower also conveys various messages, which can help communicate your feelings. Here’s a look at the gillyflower and what it symbolizes.

What are Gillyflowers?

What is gillyflower

Gillyflower (Matthiola incana) is popularly known as stock flower, and is a flowering plant under the Brassicaceae family. This beautiful blossom originated in the Mediterranean region. After it was classified in the 16th century, the flower was exported to Europe. From there, it became well-known not only in Europe but in other continents as well. 

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The gillyflower has petals with a distinct shape that separate it from other flowers. Additionally, this blossom is also known for its captivating scent that resembles cinnamon or cloves. Typically, it blooms in late winter to early spring in countries with mild winters but for countries with cool climates, the flower blossoms in late spring to summer. 

Today, this gorgeous blossom has about 140 species, and comes in various shades, including pink, red, violet, blue, and white. The gillyflower is also an edible flower, and it is often used as a garnish in dessert recipes. 

History of the Gillyflower

The scientific name of the gillyflower is Matthiola incana, named after Pierandrea Mattioli, an Italian doctor and botanist. He cultivated the flower for its perceived medicinal properties. To be specific, he believed that the strong scent of the blossom promoted lust and love. 

As mentioned, the flower was classified in the 16th century. Afterward, it was exported to England, where it became a popular garden plant. From there, it was distributed and cultivated around the world. 

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Symbolism and Meaning of the Gillyflower

Generally, gillyflower is a symbol of joy and happiness, and it reminds people that positive thoughts are vital for their well-being. Aside from that, this beautiful blossom has other meanings, which includes the following:

  • Enduring Beauty – With its unique appearance, the gillyflower radiates great beauty that separates it from other flowers. Because of this reason, this blossom is used as a symbol of beauty that will not fade with time.
  • Contentment and a Happy Life – Gillyflower represents beauty that exist in the world. It symbolizes joy and happiness. For these reasons, the flower can be used as a symbol of contentment and of a happy life.
  • Connection – Because of its simple beauty and positive connotations, gillyflower is often used in celebrations, which brings people together. Additionally, every part of this blossom is essential, and they are all connected. Because of these reasons, the flower is used as a symbol of connection.
  • Success – Gillyflower represents people’s achievements, and it can be a great present to those who have achieved something wonderful in their lives. When given as a gift, the flower expresses your happiness for the recipient.
  • Purity and Dedication – The flower can be used to describe the pure and unstained nature of humans, and they can represent people’s dedication to stay pure.
Symbolism of gillyflower

Aside from those interpretations, gillyflower also has other meanings based on its color.

  • White – The white gillyflower is a symbol of purity, innocence, and spirituality. As such, this flower is usually used as decor for various ceremonies such as baptism and weddings. It can also be given to new mothers to congratulate them and express your happiness for them.
  • Pink – The pink gillyflower is a symbol of femininity and motherly love. It’s a great present you can give your mother. By giving this flower, you are showing your love and appreciation for all the things she has done.
  • Red – The red gillyflower is an excellent Valentine’s Day gift because it symbolizes romance, love, and passion. You can present it to your special someone to express your deep emotions.
  • Blue – The blue gillyflower is best given to a friend because it symbolizes harmony and trust. Additionally, it can also be used as a symbol of true friendship.
  • Violet – The violet gillyflower is a symbol of honor and royalty, and is given to a person you adore and respect. By giving this flower, you are telling them that they have a great impact on your life.  

Uses of Gillyflower Throughout History

Aside from being a beautiful gift, the gillyflower has other uses throughout history, which includes the following:

  • In Traditional Medicine


The medical information on is provided for general educational purposes only. This information should in no way be used as a substitute for medical advice from a professional.

In ancient times, people used the seeds of the gillyflower as an aphrodisiac, expectorant, and diuretic. Additionally, they also combined the infusion with wine. The mixture was used as an antidote for poisonous bites.

1. In Food

As an edible flower, the gillyflower can be eaten raw, and is a common ingredient in salad recipes. This blossom is also used as a garnish for desserts. Additionally, some cultures turn this flower into candies.

    2. In Arts and Literature

    The gillyflower has been portrayed in numerous written artworks. For example, Émile Zola, a French novelist, mentioned the gillyflower in his novel La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret. In his book Account of Virginia, Thomas Glover wrote about the gillyflower or stock flower. Lastly, William Shakespeare also mentioned this beautiful blossom in his play Winter’s Tale.

    The Gillyflower in Use Today

    Because it symbolizes everlasting love and bliss, the white gillyflower is often used as wedding decor. Additionally, it is also a popular choice for wedding bouquets and other floral arrangements due to its unique appearance and enticing scent.

    In addition to this, many people still eat gillyflowers. Aside from being an ingredient in salad recipes, it is also used as a garnish for desserts.

    When to Give Gillyflower?

    As mentioned, the gillyflower has several positive connotations. For this reason, it can be an excellent gift for various occasions, including the following:

    • Valentine’s Day – A bouquet of red gillyflowers will surely put a smile on your special someone’s face not only because of its beauty and fragrance but because the flower also communicates that the recipient has lasting beauty, which will make her feel extra special.
    • Anniversaries – Aside from Valentine’s Day, red gillyflower can also be given on anniversaries because it symbolizes everlasting love, romance, and passion. 
    • Graduations – As a symbol of success, gillyflower is an excellent present for a graduating person. By giving this blossom, you are acknowledging all the hard work of the recipient.

    Wrapping Up

    The overall meaning of gillyflower is a happy life, and it reminds people to enjoy life before it’s too late. Aside from that, the flower has several positive meanings that make it an excellent gift or decor for numerous events. However, you should be careful when giving this flower as a present, especially when it comes to the color. For example, a blue gillyflower is usually given to a friend, while the red-colored blossoms are best for lovers. Having said that, these are simply guidelines, so go with what your heart feels is best.

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    Dani Rhys
    Dani Rhys

    Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.