Laurel Flower Meaning

Updated February 21, 2017

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.

Flower Types

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.

Greek Mythology

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.

Literary Allusions

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.

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About the Author

Based in Morgantown, W.Va., Aaron Rote has been writing about arts, culture and entertainment since 2002. His articles and columns have appeared in several state newspapers, including "The Daily Athenaeum" and "The Herald-Dispatch." Rote received his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from West Virginia University.