Orchids have been revered by different cultures around the world for centuries, from ancient China and Japan, to ancient Greece and throughout Europe, and even in Aztec and Incan traditions.
As plant and animal spiritualist Jordana Van tells mbg, there are over 25,000 varieties of orchids, and since they’re a focal point of several different cultures, a “general interpretation of its symbolism is challenging as there is considerable variety in its messages.”
That said, there are some more pervasive ideas and themes when it comes to how different people around the world view this striking flower. For one thing, Van notes, many cultures associate orchids with love, romance, sex, and fertility. “In fact,” she says, “the word ‘orchid’ is a derivative of the Greek word orchis, meaning testicle.”
And of course, this flower’s beauty is enough to attract plenty of admiration and attention, with many cultures simply celebrating it for its appearance. “Machu Picchu is known for its many breathtaking species of orchids, each of which, in addition to its unique beauty, has a different spiritual or medicinal purpose,” Van says, adding that in China, “due to their delicate fragrance and graceful figure, orchids are associated with ideal feminine beauty.”
Orchids have also basically always been expensive—and are still a pricier flower option today. As such, Van says, they’ve long been associated with wealth.
Before we dive into meanings based on color, here’s a quick glance at what orchids can symbolize, generally: