Cultures all over the world have myths about flowers engrained into them. In Greek mythology we find a wide set of interesting origin stories.

Red Roses & Red Anemones

Once again Aphrodite makes an appearance in a floral origin myth (for not one, but two red blooms).  

Adonis is now in more common usage as a term used to describe a handsome and fit young man, so it is no surprise that the original Adonis of myth was a mortal who caught the eye of Aphrodite, goddess of love, as well as Persephone, queen of the underworld.

To stop the quarrelling, Zeus decreed that Adonis would spend four months of every year in the underworld with Persephone, four months with Aphrodite, and the remaining four doing whatever he wished. Smitten, Adonis would use these four months of his own to spend even more time with Aphrodite. It is said that their love made the sun bright and the land prosperous. When Adonis was in the underworld with Persephone, however, the world was cold, and the plant life was dead. It was winter.

While out hunting - as Adonis was wont to do as a young man in ancient Greece - Adonis was hurt by a boar’s tusk and killed. In some tellings, this bore is another god or being in disguise. While rushing - too late - to her lover, Aphrodite’s foot was pricked on a white rose, and her blood turned it into the first red rose (not shocking that a flower synonymous with love has its origin in mythological devotion). Where Adonis bled and died, the red anemone grew and bloomed for the first time. To this day the flower is used to show grief for a loved one, representing death or forsaken love.


Unsurprisingly, the sunflower’s presence in Greek myth is partially inspired by it’s distinctive characteristic of “facing” the sun as it arcs across the sky.

Enter Apollo, a playboy of the gods of Olympus, god of the sun, and the object of affection of Clytie, a nymph (very minor female deity). For a time, Apollo returned her feelings, but after a while, his interests began to waiver and fall elsewhere. Longingly, Clytie would continue to watch the sun move through the sky as a way of feeling close to her former love, hoping to see him in his chariot. In some versions of the story, Apollo becomes so annoyed with Clytie watching him that he uses an arrow to turn her into a flower, whereas in others, she is turned into the sunflower as an act of pity by the rest of the pantheon.

This origin may be one of the reasons that sunflowers are often symbols of loyalty.


Apollo also makes an appearance as the romantic lead in the folklore associated with the Hyacinth, with the god of the sun becoming enamoured with a young man called Hyacinthus, a beautiful Spartan hero. Apollo and Hyacinthus were happy lovers until the jealous Zephyrus, god of the west wind, blew off-course a discus that Apollo had thrown to Hyacinthus during a game they were playing, and it struck Hyacinth’s head fatally.

Apollo was distraught, wishing to become mortal and join his lover in death, but could not do so. Instead, from Hyacinthus’ blood he created the first Hyacinth, promising to always remember him.


To end the list on one of the more well-known floral Greek myths: Narcissus - also origin of the term narcissist, the reasoning becoming obvious as the story unfolds - was a young man and hunter of incredible beauty. He knew it too. He rejected all of those around him until he eventually fell in love with the only visage he believed to be his gorgeous equal: his own reflection in a nearby pool of water. 

Narcissus spent the rest of his life gazing lovingly into that reflection until he shrunk and became the narcissus flower.

Despite their tendency to become rather intense and tragic, these Greek tales stick out to me because they imply that the ancient Greeks placed such incredible stock in flowers that they ascribed god-like meanings and origins to them. It is also telling that all of the myths mentioned here link flowers with love - even if it was not a happy or always reciprocated love - something we still do to this day, with flowers playing important roles in not just weddings and romance in general.

If you’re equally intrigued by these folkloric backstories of flowers, and the meaning and deeper resonance that they have beneath them, you may be inclined to look for a floral decoration that - by nature of being dried - will last for significantly longer than fresh flower alternatives without losing any colour or fragrance. Hidden Botanics has you covered. You can find our wide selection here.


Alex x

May 09, 2022 — Cagla Cantimur

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