Historically, many flowers have been used to symbolize peace, whether between individuals, among nations or within the self. Peace lilies, peonies and lotus flowers are some of the most common, although there are many others. Many of these flowers also have several other meanings, and they have signified everything from purity to prosperity to the soul’s journey toward enlightenment.
Peace lilies, which belong to the genus Spathiphyllum, are common household plants that are durable and easy to maintain. They are best known for their tear-shaped white or yellow leaves, which, according to plant folklore, came to symbolize peace because of their resemblance to the white flag of surrender. Today, peace lilies also symbolize prosperity. In Christian tradition, they have acquired the additional connotation of life after death, and they are associated with the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Long beloved in China, the peony symbolizes the peace and stability of a prosperous domestic life. Often depicted in Chinese art, peonies also signify the amorous appeal of female beauty and are used as status signifiers, demonstrating a person’s rank and wealth. When combined with other plants, such as the lotus flower or the crab apple blossom, the peony symbolizes rank, wealth and power coming together to create a stable order.
In Buddhist iconography, the lotus flower symbolizes a state of inner peace and detachment from desire that enables a person to reach ultimate fulfillment. For this reason it is also a traditional symbol of enlightenment. However, in China, the flower’s habit of opening only during the day also connected it with the cycles of life, death and rebirth; and because it grows out of mud, it represents innocence from the filth of the world.
Other flowers that have been used as emblems of peace include apple blossoms, the cattail and the cosmos, a member of the sunflower family that’s common in the southwestern United States. Hyacinths traditionally symbolize prudence and the peace of mind that prudence produces. Certain types of roses, such as the Christmas rose, have also been associated with peace, as have certain flower colors, most notably blue and white.
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