What Does a Purple Iris Symbolize?

Written by kathy imbriani
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What Does a Purple Iris Symbolize?
Purple Iris (blaue iris image by Reinhard Beck from Fotolia.com)

Despite the sentiments conveyed with roses and tulips, the purple iris often is the most striking addition to floral arrangements. Irises, with more than 200 species, come in a vast variety of colours and forms. Native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, but found growing all over the world, this floral favourite rightly derives its name from the Greek goddess Iris, meaning "rainbow," and is valued for its distinct and elaborate flowers.

Mythology And History

The Greek goddess Iris was thought by ancient Greeks to be a messenger between heaven and Earth, a personification of the rainbow. Purple irises were planted on the graves of women to summon Iris to guide them to heaven. Egyptian kings marvelled at the exquisite flower forms of iris and drawings of irises have been found on the walls of excavated Egyptian temples. In the Middle Ages, the iris became linked with French aristocracy and the iris became the symbol of France, the iconic fleur-de-lis.

Religious Meanings

In the early 17th century, the book "Partheneia Sacra" was written by the English Jesuit priest Henry Hawkins, and addressed to a strict devotional society, the Parthenian Sodality of the Immaculate Conception. In this work, Hawkins cited the iris, along with other flowers, as symbolic of the Virgin Mary.

Wisdom And Knowledge

Because they are elegant representatives of the colour purple, irises are considered to stand for pride, wisdom, success, knowledge and dignity.

25th Wedding Flower

The purple iris is the official flower for the celebration of 25th wedding anniversaries.

February Birth Flower

For those born in February, the purple iris is the birth flower, its three upright petals signifying faith, valour and wisdom.

Other Designations

The purple iris is the state flower of Tennessee.

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