Laurel flowers are a single species in the kalmia genus. The flower is small in nature, with white and red petals. Laurel flowers are native to Europe, the Mediterranean and the eastern United States. The laurel flower has a range of symbolic meanings dating back to its earliest appearances in Greek mythology.
The meaning of a laurel flower is dependent upon its type. The two most common types are mountain laurels and ground laurels. Both flowers sprout from an evergreen shrub that subsists in a variety of climates and geographies. Much of the flower's symbolic value arises from its ability to survive and cultivate.
Laurel flowers, specifically the mountain laurel, are associated with ambition and perseverance. The Greeks bestowed a wreath of laurel to poets, athletes and war heroes as a mark of achievement. According to Arena Flowers, a laurel can also be offered as a sign of treachery or false adulation.
The most common idiom related to laurels is "to rest one's laurels." This idiom is often employed in critique of someone who relies solely on past achievements or who refuses to advance their reputation.
The laurel flower plays a significant symbolic role in Greek Mythology. In the story of Apollo and Daphne, Daphne is transformed into a laurel tree as she tries to flee the lovelorn Apollo. Apollo then takes a branch of the tree as his symbol. Apollo is the god of light, medicine, music, art, and archery, hence the flower's symbolic relationship with achievement.
In "A Streetcar Named Desire," Blanch DuBois arrives in New Orleans from Laurel, Mississippi. The town is often alluded to ironically in the play, as it comes to represent the dying ideals of the south and Blanche's inability to persevere in a changing world.