Also known as Myrtus, common myrtle or true myrtle, myrtle is a plant in the Myrtaceae family that is native to western Asia, southern Europe, and northern Africa. It is a beautiful evergreen shrub or tiny tree that grows to only about 16 feet tall, offering a gorgeous appearance for gardeners who choose to cultivate it.
But what’s the real story? There is some deep symbolism behind the myrtle flower. This plant holds deep meaning and is often used in weddings for its ability to represent true love and romance.
In this article, we will break down the meaning of myrtle flowers so you know exactly what you are getting when you choose to grow this lovely plant.
Here’s an overview of the myrtle flower meaning/symbolism!
What Does Myrtle Mean?
Before we dive into the symbolism of the myrtle tree, it’s important to understand what the word actually means.
In late Middle English, the word is derived from the Latin “myrtilla” or “myrtillis”, which is itself a derivative of the Greek word “murtos.” The name was given to the entire genus of flowering plants in about 1753 by Linnaeus. It loosely translates to the word “bitter.”
Myrtle flowers also represent a girl’s name of Greek origin, connected to themes such as fertility, peace, and youth.
What Do Myrtle Flowers Symbolize?
Myrtle flowers have an interesting meaning. It symbolizes love, affection, and beauty. Myrtle flowers are often used in ceremonies involving weddings as they represent the bride’s purity and innocence. They also symbolize fertility because of their association with Venus who was known as the goddess of love and fertility. Overall, myrtle flowers make phenomenal wedding decorations and look great in bridal bouquets.
There are many other meanings that can be attributed to the myrtle flower as well. The most common meaning is love and fidelity, as well as courage. It also represents peace, tranquility, and good luck in some cultures. Myrtle flowers have been used for centuries in wreaths during Roman festivals honoring Venus and Minerva.
They also hold significance in ancient Greece, playing a part in ancient Greek mythology. The ancient Greeks viewed myrtle flowers as symbolic of love and fertility, and were also closely associated with the goddess Aphrodite in ancient Greek mythology (more on this tradition below).
Do Myrtles and Crepe Myrtles Symbolize the Same Thing?
A common question people ask about myrtles is whether they represent the same thing as crepe myrtles. These plants
are often mistaken for being the same plant due to their similar-sounding names. However, it is important to note that they are two distinct species of plants with different characteristics and symbolisms.
While both species belong to the Myrtaceae family, Myrtles are evergreen shrubs or small trees native to the Mediterranean region, with glossy dark green leaves and fragrant white flowers.
Crepe Myrtles, on the other hand, are deciduous trees or shrubs that originated in Asia, with colorful flowers that resemble crepe paper and peeling bark that reveals a smooth, mottled trunk.
In terms of symbolism, Myrtles have been associated with love, fertility, and immortality since ancient times, and have been used in various religious and cultural traditions.
Crepe Myrtles, on the other hand, are often seen as a representation of strength, growth, and rebirth. Their ability to bloom prolifically even in harsh conditions, as well as their resilience in the face of adversity, make them popular symbols of perseverance and endurance.
What is the Cultural Significance of a Myrtle Flower?
The Myrtle flower is a green shrub with small, fragrant flowers. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region and North Africa. It has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. Myrtles have many uses, from flavoring meats in cooking to being used as natural insect repellents.
Let’s break down some more details about this plant’s history to see the beautiful symbolism myrtle flowers hold.
Symbolic Meanings of Myrtle in Ancient Rome and Early Christian Tradition
The meaning of the Myrtle flower is mystery and contemplation. This plant has a long history in many cultures, primarily via essential oils, for its healing properties.
The Roman goddess Venus was often depicted holding myrtle, which symbolized fertility and love. In Christianity, it is said that St John picked leaves from this tree to create an oil used in baptism by Jesus himself.
Common Symbolism of Myrtle in Ancient Greece
In ancient Greece, there’s also some significant myrtle flower symbolism to pay attention to, as mentioned briefly earlier in this post. In ancient Greece, the myrtle flower symbolized love, beauty, and fertility. It was believed that the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality, favored the myrtle and used it as a symbol of her own beauty and desirability.
The myrtle plant was also associated with Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility, who was believed to have sought refuge in a myrtle grove during her search for her daughter, Persephone.
Myrtle Essential Oils
Myrtle essential oil is also valuable. The oil is extracted through steam distillation of the leaves, twigs, and berries of the plant. It has a sweet, herbal, and slightly spicy aroma that is believed to have a calming and uplifting effect on the mind and body.
Myrtle essential oil is rich in chemical compounds such as alpha-pinene, limonene, cineole, and linalool, which offer various therapeutic benefits such as anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, decongestant, and expectorant properties.
Its traditional uses include treating respiratory conditions like coughs, colds, and asthma, as well as skin and hair care, menstrual cramps, and digestive issues. Though we can’t comment on the efficacy of those treatments, as there aren’t many studies to date on them, it’s certainly worth a try!
What is the Symbolism of a Myrtle Tattoo?
Tattoos of myrtle flowers can be used as a reminder of life’s fragility or to signify someone who has passed away.
In some cultures, this type of plant is used in marriage ceremonies and funerals for its symbolism so it might also be appropriate to get a myrtle tattoo when you are getting married. A myrtle tattoo would symbolize peace, love, and prosperity.
When Should You Give Someone a Myrtle Flower or Plant?
If you’re looking to give a gift with significant symbolism, ideally one with both devotional and romantic meanings, myrtle branches and flowers are the way to go. Giving a bouquet with myrtle flowers inside will impress like no other.
But where to find these blooms, and when is the best time to give someone a gift of this flowering plant? Myrtle flowers grow in regions with a Mediterranean climate. They are native to countries like Greece, Italy, and Israel, but can be grown in any warm, well-drained, and sunny location.
When should you give someone myrtle flowers? They are the perfect gift or floral arrangements for any occasion. A myrtle is associated with love and fidelity so it makes the ideal gift on a wedding day. It can also be given as a gift to show your affection for someone you care about.
However, the best time to give someone a myrtle flower or plant may be when they are going through tough times, such as after the loss of a loved one. This will help them feel better and understand that there are people who care about them during this difficult time in their life.
With their sweet fragrance and cloying beauty, myrtle flowers are perfect for wedding bouquets and decorations at wedding ceremonies. Their delicate white flowers are romantic and elegant, which is why they’ve been prized by various cultures all over the world.
If you’re interested in flower language beyond those of myrtle trees, check this comprehensive flower meanings list.
*image by Tamara_k/depositphotos