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Colorful, beautiful, and powerful yet small, the myrtle flower is a symbol of innocence and purity. Well regarded in cultures all around the world, it’s steeped in symbolism, myths, and history. The myrtle is cultivated for ornamental purposes, as well as a source of priceless aromatic oils used in the cosmetic industry. Here’s what you need to know about the myrtle flower.
About the Myrtle
The myrtle belongs to the Myrtaceae family of flowers under the Myrtlus genus. They grow all year round and can be found in Asia, South America, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. The shrubs produce aromatic, small, shiny leaves, and flowers during spring and summer. While white is the most popular color for myrtle, they also come in pink and purple varieties.
The flowers are delicate, tiny, and contain five petals and sepals each. Cultivated for their essential oils, as well as ornamental purposes, the myrtle plant can grow up to 5 meters and the flowers are borne on short stalks. The plant also bears fruit that has a striking similarity to berries that provide excellent gastronomical benefits when consumed.
Various cultures regard myrtle flowers as essential. They have been used in rituals and now have a substantial role in traditions all over the world. Various myths surrounding it have been passed from one generation after another.
Myrtle Name and Meanings
The myrtle gets its name from the Greek words “myrrh” which means liquid incense and balm. The name is apt considering that from the flower produces an essential oil which has many benefits.
Some sources say that the flower received its name from the Greek word “myrtos” which means the sprig or the myrtle tree.
Myrtle Flower Meaning and Symbolism
Flowers can have different symbolic meanings and the myrtle has its fair share. Here are the most common symbolic associations of the myrtle:
- The myrtle is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. It is considered lucky to have myrtle flowers inside the home because it helps bring positive vibes.
- White myrtle flowers are a symbol of innocence and chastity. The flower is often used in various religious ceremonies and rituals.
- Myrtle flowers were often used as wedding decorations and gifted to brides because people believed that it brought good luck to the newlyweds. They were also often placed on pathways and sometimes on the head of brides for luck.
- The myrtle also symbolizes marital fidelity and the love between two people.
Uses of the Myrtle
Long recognized as a healing plant, myrtle contains tannins, essential oils, organic acids, resins, and bitter substances.
Myrtle has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of bacterial infections, gum infections, acne, wounds, urinary infections, hemorrhoids, as well as digestive problems. The leaves also have antiseptic qualities which can be extracted by macerating the leaf in wine, a practice that was employed by the ancient Greeks to address bladder and lung infections. Today, myrtle essential is applied during aromatherapy and also as an antifungal and antiseptic
Myrtle is a valuable culinary ingredient because its fruit and leaves contain a unique combination of nutrients and organic compounds. Dried leaves, fruits, and flowers are used to flavor various dishes, and they also make great additions to any salad.
In Sardinia and Corsica, there are two types of myrtle liquors, Mirto bianco and Mirto rosso. The former is produced by the maceration of berries in alcohol and the latter is lighter in color and taste and is produced by the maceration of the myrtle leaves in alcohol.
Myrtus spumante dolce, sparkling sweet spinach of myrtle berries, is also a very popular drink in Sardinia.
Myrtle is said to clear up acne and other skin problems. It’s topically applied either in its oil form or in very limited concentrations. Myrtle contains a plethora of organic compounds and antioxidants that help the cells heal quicker.
Myrtle Cultural Significance
Kate Middleton included myrtles in her wedding bouquet. As mentioned above, it’s been tradition for the British Royal family to have myrtle in their bridal bouquets since Queen Victoria first did. The flowers came from the queen’s 170-year old garden.
One of the characters in the beloved novel The Great Gatsby was named Myrtle Wilson. She was often referred to as “the other woman” in the novel. This could have been an ironic choice on the part of Fitzgerald, the author, as the myrtle signifies fidelity and Myrtle Wilson was unfaithful to her husband.
Myths and Stories of the Myrtle
Myrtle flowers have a long and interesting history, wrapped in mythology and magic.
- In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was embarrassed when she visited the island of Cytheraea because she was naked, and she couldn’t show herself to the people. She hid behind a myrtle tree and it became one of her symbols. Aphrodite, being the goddess of love and beauty, lent the myrtle the symbol of partnership and love.
- In England, Queen Victoria, carried a branch of myrtle as she walked down the aisle towards her bridegroom. Since then, every woman in the royal family has carried on the tradition to bring good luck to their marriages.
- The ancient Greeks used to put myrtle flowers on the tombs of their loved ones because they believed that it would provide good luck in the afterlife.
- Jewish people believe that the myrtle is one of the four holy plants.
- In Christianity, the myrtle is a symbol of friendship, fidelity, love, forgiveness, and peace.
To wrap it up
A symbol of purity and love, and a flower favored by the royal family of Great Britain as good luck, the myrtle also boasts numerous health benefits. It is a welcome addition to any household and garden.