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Despite their slightly dangerous-sounding name, snapdragons are admired for their spikes of colorful blooms during the spring and fall months. Let’s take a closer look at th fascinating history and symbolic meanings of the snapdragon.
About the Snapdragon
Native to the Mediterranean region and North America, snapdragons are the colorful blooms from the Antirrhinum genus of the Plantaginacea family. Their botanical name derives from Greek terms anti and rhin that translate to like a snout, referring to their supposed resemblance to a calf’s nose. However, they’re also called snapdragons because their flowers look like what a dragon’s mouth could look like —and snap when you squeeze them.
Their clusters of bell-shaped flower bloom in almost every color—think of purple, pink, red, orange, yellow, peach and white. It’s said that the nectar of the snapdragon attracts hummingbirds and bumblebees.
Some varieties have puffed petals that look like stuffed berets, while others are ruffled. The ‘Butterfly Bronze’ snapdragon is admired for its golden-orange flowers, while the ‘Sonnet Pink’ boasts its pastel pink hues.
These blooms love the cold weather and can handle a light frost, so their seeds are usually planted in the late fall or even on top of the snow. In southern France, Morocco and Portugal, they often grow in fissures and walls. A great thing about these flowers is that tall varieties look great in borders, while dwarf kinds brighten up window boxes and containers.
- Interesting Fact: Snapdragons are popular garden plants, but they have many lookalikes, including the so-called summer snapdragon or the Angelonia augustifolia, and the island snapdragon bush.
Stories about the Snapdragon Flower
Centuries ago, there were no televisions, toys and books, so playing with flowers was a pastime. It’s said that snapdragons were a favorite for their unique shape, as squeezing their sides makes them pop open and close, just like a snapping jaw. Kids of the past treated the blooms as tamed dragons—and even associated them with the creatures lurking in the wild and appearing in their nightmares.
In a German folktale, a woman was placed under a spell by an elf. As she walked, he warned her not to step on the snapdragons in the fields. When she accidentally crushed the flowers under her feet, she was released from the magical enchantment and eventually escaped. Since then, snapdragons became associated with breaking hexes and spells.
Meaning and Symbolism of the Snapdragon
Most of the symbolic meanings of the snapdragon are influenced by folktales of the past. Here are some of them:
- A Symbol of Strength – In modern interpretations, snapdragons represent strength or force of will since they grow from rough grounds and stand tall even in the wind.
- “A Gracious Lady” – In an old folktale, hiding a snapdragon on your person would make you appear gracious and fascinating to a male.
- A Symbol of Creativity – Snapdragons can be seen in a variety of colors and are believed to spark creativity. Many watch the flowers closely to see the world from a new perspective.
- A Symbol of Deception – It’s not clear how the bloom became associated with hypocrisy and betrayal but in the past, it was worn in hopes of receiving protection against deception. It’s also believed that if someone cursed you, placing snapdragons in front of a mirror would send back curses to the sender.
- Presumption and Indiscretion – While they have negative symbolisms, many people associate snapdragons with keeping secrets. The Greeks called the flowers kynokephelon, which means dog headed, while the Romans known them as leonis ora or lion’s mouth.
Snapdragons come in a rainbow of bright hues and gained various meanings for centuries. In the language of flower, here are some of their specific color meanings:
- Purple snapdragons symbolize spirituality, which is different from other purple flowers that represent royalty.
- Red snapdragons are associated with passion and love.
- White snapdragons represent purity, innocence and grace.
- Yellow snapdragons symbolize happiness and good luck.
Uses of Snapdragon Flower throughout History
Since the days of the Roman Empire, these blooms have been grown as ornamental plants, and later even incorporated into cocktails and savory dishes.
In Magic and Superstitions
Snapdragons were considered an antidote to witchcraft, and have been said to protect against charms, hexes, enchantments and nightmares. Wiccans even place fresh flowers on their altars and plant them around their homes to ward off evil.
Many place their seeds under pillows in hopes of banishing bad dreams and negativities, while others wear them around the neck to avoid being bewitched. Pliny the Elder advised wearing a bracelet of snapdragons to get protection from poisoning.
In the past, snapdragons were made into medicinal teas for relieving canker sores and the strained throats of opera singers. Since they’re anti-inflammatory, they have been utilized as poultice on tumors and sprains. It’s also thought that the flower and leaves would heal rashes, sunburns and irritated skin. Nowadays, there are creams and lotions made from snapdragons to soothe dry skin and cracked heels.
Snapdragons are edible, but they’re more decorative than tasty. It’s said they have a bland or even bitter taste, though the oil from their seeds is said to be as healthy as olive oil. Their petals are commonly added as a garnish to cocktails, but they can also be incorporated to pasta, salads, canapés and desserts. Sometimes, they’re even mixed with guacamoles and cheese dips.
The Snapdragon Flower in Use Today
Give a delightful, colorful show in your landscape with these blooms. Snapdragons will look beautiful in hanging baskets, as well as in rock gardens and flower borders. It’s said that yellow varieties are the easiest to blend with other flowers, but you may also go for purple and pink blossoms.
Their delicate ruffled flowers are perfect for a bridal posy, while their tall, colorful blooms can add lots of drama to your arrangement. For rustic and bohemian weddings, add a bit of greenery and wildflowers to snapdragons. They can also be incorporated to cocktails and desserts to serve with your cake!
When to Give Snapdragon Flowers
The symbolisms behind these flowers aren’t exactly friendly, so you might want to include a note that expresses your sweetest sentiments when giving snapdragons—and watch your colors! A bouquet of red snapdragons is associated with love, which can be a lovely alternative to red roses on Valentine’s Day and anniversaries.
They’re also an inexpensive good luck gift for those starting a new business or career. Do you know someone who’s trying to overcome difficulties? As a symbol of strength, snapdragons will help him or her succeed despite adversity.
Snapdragons are beautiful and extremely colorful, turning your backyard space into an outdoor oasis. Even on the darkest days, snapdragons can bring joy to anyone. They’re beautiful as cut flowers in your home, or incorporated into gifts and bouquets.