Flower Symbols and Their Meanings on Gravestones

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Symbolshave been a silent language used on tombstones for centuries. But, it was notuntil the mid-1800s that this secret code caught on with the ‘common folk’ whocould afford to decorate their graves with statues and carvings.

 The Victorians were known for their love ofornate designs and this carried on to their gravestones. Stone carvers of theperiod created works of art. Rural cemeteries became the poor person’s artgallery, offering carvings, statues, and buildings of spectacularcraftsmanship.

TheVictorians were enamored with flowers, which were known to have their ownlanguage.  Give a woman a red rose andthat signified love, a yellow one meant friendship, and a white rose suggesteda new beginning, or a fond farewell.

A Rose is a Rose …

Roses on a tombstone can have severalmeanings, depending on the number and if the rose is in bud or bloom. 

•The rose itself symbolizes love, hope and beauty.

 • Two roses joined together signifies a strongbond and is usually found on the grave of a couple.

•A wreath of roses represents beauty and virtue.

•A rose bud indicates the grave of a child. A partial bloom was used to show someone who had died in his or her teenor early adult life – a life cut short. And a full bloom signified someone in the prime of life.

•A broken blossom, whether a rose or any other flower, indicated that someonewho died too young.

Consider the Lilies …

 Another flower that is abundant in thecemetery is the lily, which stands for innocence and purity.  There are several various types of liliesused on gravestones, each with a slightly different meaning.

•Most popular is the Easter lily, which represents resurrection and theinnocence of the soul.

•Calla Lilies represent marriage and fidelity.


•Lily of the Valley signifies innocence, humility and renewal.

•The Fleur de Lis is actually a stylized lily representing the Holy Trinity.

•The Daffodil, also of the lily family, indicated grace, beauty and a deepregard.  This is why daffodils areabundant in older cemeteries during the spring.

A Flower By Any Other Name ...

Otherflowers used on gravestones include:

•The daisy represents gentleness and innocence.

•The morning glory suggests mourning, mortality and farewell.

•Greenery is also used to convey unspoken thoughts.  Many stones are covered in Ivy to implyfaithfulness, undying affection and eternal life.

•The fern was very popular in Victorian times, indicating sincerity andsolitude.

•And the palm, another plant associated with Easter, signifying triumph overdeath and a forthcoming resurrection.

Wanderany cemetery and you will discover a secret language communicated throughsymbols.  All it takes is the interest tolearn what each generation wished to imply with this language, and the time tolet them speak to you while offering interesting insights into someone’s lifeand time.



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Written by


April 10, 2015
Wesley is the founder of hello@traceyourpast.com.

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