Flowers often mark important occasions, including births, marriages and deaths. Almost all cultures decorate gravestones and cemeteries with flowers in the event of the death of a loved one. The flowers that are chosen may vary according to the personality and wishes of the deceased, but in most cultures particular flowers are used to symbolise death. The language of flowers is sometimes known as floriography.
Poppies are symbolic of both sleep and death, because of their association with opium, a drug used in some cultures to ease pain and accelerate sleep. In the Western world, people wear red poppies in November to commemorate soldiers and others who died during wartime. In the film the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was put to sleep by a field of magical poppies. Although poppies are commonly red, other varieties are also grown.
In certain cultures, white lilies are associated with funerals and are often placed on gravestones. They are said to represent purity of the soul and eternal life. It is said that lilies used to appear on the graves of individuals wrongly executed for crimes that they did not commit. In other societies, lilies are thought to have healing properties. There are many varieties of lilies in the world today, including Oriental Lilies and Tiger Lilies.
Chrysanthemums originated in China. The name is believed to have been derived from the Greek words "chrysos" or gold, and "anthos," meaning flower. In many cultures chrysanthemums are associated with the sun, but in certain European countries, for example, Italy and France, they are a symbol of death. In Italy, on November 2, the "day of the dead," people often visit the graves of relatives and friends and leave chrysanthemums. Many varieties and colours of chrysanthemums exist today.
Florists often use red carnations as a base flower for funeral wreaths and in this form they symbolise death. Carnations originated in the far East and were popular with both the Romans and Greeks. Today the carnation is the national flower of Slovenia. In floriography, carnations represent truth and passion.
Roses are known as the emblem of love but may also form part of a funeral tribute as an expression of love for the deceased. In certain cultures, black roses are used to symbolise death. Black roses are rare and are not truly black, but in fact dark red in colour. For mourning, florists may dye the leaves of ordinary roses in order to create black roses.