Taking care of orchids is an ancient tradition, so when you bring one into your home, you’re joining a long line of history. Orchids are found in over 35,000 different species and almost every climate on the planet, so it’s easy to see how the flowers have become a part of many cultures, each symbolizing something different.
In most cultures, orchids have been regarded as representations of beauty, royalty, or love, as you would expect when looking at one. Orchids were a popular ingredient in love potions in Europe.
The pink orchid is now widely recognized as the 14th wedding anniversary flower, representing love and affection.
Orchids were associated with virility and fertility in ancient Greece. It was thought that if an unborn child’s father ate the largest and newest orchid stems and roots, their child would be a boy. The mother, on the other hand, would give birth to a girl if she ate tiny orchid roots and stems.
The vanilla orchid, which grew wild in Mexico and was regarded as a sign of power by the Aztecs, is one of the most well-known orchids. As a power potion, they are said to have drank a mixture of vanilla orchid flowers.
Aztec civilizations also used native orchid flowers as medicine. Records show that they used various parts of the orchid plant to heal sores and burns, soothe a bad cough, and to help ease symptoms of dysentery.
Some orchids were even harvested and processed to make a glue-like adhesive substance. Native orchids were stripped, dried, and then soaked in water to form a sticky, mucus-like gel used to repair items.
About 2695 BCE, Shen Nung, also known as the Father of Chinese Medicine, made the first known documented reference to the orchid plant species. Orchids have been grown in Chinese cultures for their medicinal and aromatic properties since then.
Confucius, a well-known Chinese philosopher, was a fan of cymbidium orchids. Confucius is said to have cared for the cymbidiums in his garden and some of his poetry makes direct references to the orchid flower.
Confucius is said to have said, “Being in the company of good people is like entering a room full of orchids” (translated by Alice Poon).
In Chinese culture, orchids are still icons of scholarly pursuit, nobility, honesty, and friendship.
Ossenbach, C. (2005). History of orchids in Central America Part I: From prehispanic times to the independence of the new republics. Harvard Papers in Botany, 10(2), 183–226. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41761814?seq=1