With a long history of use in herbal medicine, osmanthus is a plant that is still commonly used for flavoring and in perfumery. This is a plant with powerful essential oil as well as the ability to decorate your backyard garden.
If you’re not growing osmanthus yet, it’s a large shrub you’ve got to consider.
Often referred to simply as the fragrant olive, osmanthus is a popular street tree in China that has an intoxicating aroma—and some powerful symbolism, too.
What Does Osmanthus Mean?
Osmanthus is the generic name for a plant more commonly known as the fragrant olive. It is an evergreen tree or upright shrub that has sweetly-scented flowers often used in herbal medicine, confectionary, and tea flavoring.
It’s known by many nicknames, including tea olive, sweet olive, and kinmokusei.
The generic name, Osmanthus, is derived from the Greek word osma, which means fragrant, along with anthos, which means flower. The full name Osmanthus fragrans makes a lot of sense given that the plant has a cloying aroma.
What Does Osmanthus Symbolize?
One of ten famous flowers in Taiwan and China, the osmanthus flower is the official flower of the month of August. It holds quite a bit of symbolism, traditionally representing romance and love.
The fragrant flowers are known in China as “gui hua” and are recognized as being some of the most fragrant flowers here. The city of Guilin has so many osmanthus trees that its scenery is said to be some of the most beautiful in the world.
There are several varieties of osmanthus to be aware of, each of which holds its own unique beauty and symbolism. These are some of the most common osmanthus varieties, although dozens of hybrids and cultivars have been developed.
In fact, more than 29 cultivars of osmanthus have been developed, with colors varying between white, yellow, red, and gold.
What Does an Orange Osmanthus Flower Symbolize?
Orange osmanthus flowers tend to hold the same symbolism as orange flowers of other species. They usually indicate themes like optimism, joy, and serenity.
What Does a White Osmanthus Flower Symbolize?
White osmanthus was once used in old wedding ceremonies. The flower was used by the bride to bring to her new family, along with pomegranate plants. The plant, when gifted in this fashion, represented true love, faithfulness, fertility, and peace.
It was also used to indicate the bride’s intentions to give birth to many noble children and provide her new family with grandchildren.
What is the Cultural Significance of the Osmanthus Flower?
This plant has been cultivated in China for more than 2,500 years and is still often grown there today.
In fact, the city of Guilin in China was named after the plant, with the name translating to “forest of sweet osmanthus.” This popular tree has flowers that fill the air with their intoxicating scent on warm fall nights.
However, this plant can be grown in other places as well. It is found in the Himalayas at elevations of around 1200 to 3000 meters above sea level as well as in places like China, South Japan, Indochina, and Taiwan.
In addition, osmanthus is the city flower of Hangzhou. Many years ago, Chinese monks planted osmanthus trees near Buddhist temples. They later become revered by residents as they blossomed every fall.
There are numerous lunar legends associated with this flower, too. It is associated with the Chinese Moon Festival, which occurs each September and uses the osmanthus flower as its main symbol. It’s often referred to as the Osmanthus Festival as a result.
The tree will bloom year-round in many parts of China. In the fall, families will gather to eat moon cakes and the grandmother of the family will tell stories about the moon and sweet osmanthus.
Families will enjoy steamed cake, fermented osmanthus wine, and osmanthus tea. Osmanthus is the flower that symbolizes the eighth month of the year so the festival of osmanthus is held at this time.
There are many practical uses for this flower, too. The flowers, which are said to smell like peach or apricot, are used in teas as well as rice wines. Osmanthus wine is often regarded as a “reunion drink” that is consumed with one’s family.
In addition to the cultural meanings described above, osmanthus flowers are often depicted in paintings. They are used to symbolize an honorable long life and a wish for the birth of many children.
What Does an Osmanthus Flower Tattoo Symbolize?
When chosen for a tattoo, the osmanthus flower generally symbolizes love and romance but it can also be used for tattoos related to family and fertility.
Consider Growing Osmanthus in Your Backyard Garden
If you wish to add evergreen interest and alluring fragrance to your garden, osmanthus is a smart choice. This gorgeous shrub is entrenched with plenty of history and symbolism, making it a wonderful addition to any setting.
It will add culture, mystique, and a beautiful aroma to any corner of your garden—and its blooms will make a fantastic cut flower that can be given as a gift for just about anyone.
*image by depositphotos.com/YAYImages