The almond (Prunus amygdalus, syn. Prunus dulcis) is a flowering, small to medium-sized deciduous tree in the rose family, Rosaceae. It belongs to the botanical genus Prunus. The tree typically grows 3–5 meters tall, and has an average lifespan of 20–25 years. It is the first deciduous nut tree to bloom in spring. The flowers are delicate, five-petalled, typically 3–5 cm in diameter, and their color ranges from white to pink. The almond trees are drought resistant and can thrive even on a poor soil. The scent of the almond blossoms is sweet, and it is sometimes compared to that of jasmine and lily. To thrive well, the almond trees require Mediterranean-like climate, with long and dry summers and milder, wet winters.
Habitat: The almond is native to the Middle East—to Iran and several other countries in the region. Wild almonds were eaten even in the Neolithic period. In ancient times, it was cultivated and spread throughout the Mediterranean, southern Europe and northern Africa, along the caravan trade routes. Traces of almond have been found at archeological sites in Greece which date back to the eight millennium B.C. It is estimated that the cultivation of almond trees in the Mediterranean region began around the third millennium B.C, in the early Bronze Age.
Today, almond trees can be seen across Europe and Asia and North America, especially in California, which shares over 40 percent of the global almond market. The almond tree was first brought to California In the 1700s, through the Spanish missionaries.
Etymology: The word ‘almond‘ is linked to both the Middle English words ‘almond’ and ‘almaund’, and to the Old French words ‘almande’, ’amande’ and ‘alemondle’. The origin of these words is traced back to the Ancient Greek word ‘amygdalos’ and to the Latin word ‘amygdala’. The exact origin and meaning of the word ‘almond’ is still unknown, although some theories speculate that ‘almond’ could be of Semitic origin.
Other theories hypothesize that, under the influence of the Spanish, the letter ‘l’ was erroneously inserted the Medieval Latin word ‘amandus’ (meaning ‘lovable’), since many Arabic-origin words began with the article ‘al’. Etymologically, the word ‘almond’ is also related to the German word ‘mandel’, the Italian word ‘mandorlo’, the Portuguese word ‘amêndoa’ and the Spanish word ‘almendro’, all referring to the same tree.
What do almond flowers symbolize?
Almond flowers symbolize fertility and conjugal happiness
The almond flower meaning is often connected to fertility and love. According to ‘The Dictionary of Plant Lore’ by D. C. Watts, people once believed that an almond tree which grew near the house of a bride would always be special. Such a tree would have a rich blossom and abundant fruits. Similarly, in Indian weddings, people use almonds as fertility and abundance blessings. They believe that almonds bring both money and children to the family of the newlyweds. Ancient Romans, too, considered the blossoming almond as sacred and auspicious. They used almond nuts as amulets for fertility.
Almond flowers symbolize hope and a new life
The almond flower meaning includes bravery, courage, hope and a new beginning, since it is the first blossom to appear in the spring. It is the ‘Awakener’ flower. The great Vincent van Gogh, in his painting Branches of an Almond Tree in Bloom, stressed this symbolism of the almond flower. With this paining, Vincent van Gogh celebrated a new life—the birth of his brother’s son. In the Jewish tradition, the almond branch was the model for the menorah. In the Christian tradition, the tree is a symbol of Jesus being born of a virgin. The blossoming of an almond tree has similarly been an emblem of Madonna, the Queen of Heaven. In the Islamic lore, the almond flowers are seen a symbol of hope since they bloom on bare branches.
Almond flowers symbolize eternal love
In Greek mythology, the almond flower meaning is everlasting love, which not even death can concur. The story goes that Phyllis, the beautiful Queen of Thrace, became love-sick. She convinced herself that her beloved Demophoon, who had gone into the Trojan War, had fallen in love with someone else and would not return to her. Her pain and despair were so deep, that she committed a suicide. After she died, the Gods metamorphosed her into an almond tree. But the Queen’s lover did return from the battlefield. As soon as he heard the terrible news, he ran toward the almond tree and embraced it.
Upon feeling the touch of Demophoon, the almond tree blossomed immediately, becoming a symbol of true, eternal love and faithfulness.
Almond flowers as spiritual symbol
In the hands of Aaron, the rod made from almond wood suddenly blossomed. According to another version of the story, the rod of Aaron was placed by Moses in the Tabernacle, and it miraculously blossomed during the night. In both the versions, the blossoming of the almond branch was perceived as an omen that Aaron would enter the priesthood. Because of this episode, the almond flower also became a symbol of spiritual blessings, honor, divine favor and approval.
Almond flowers as a symbol of beauty
The almond blossom is beautiful and very delicate. Therefore, the almond flower meaning is beauty, charm, delicacy and sweetness. This symbolism is particularly strong in China. For the Chinese, the almond flowers symbolize feminine beauty, as well as fortitude in sorrow.
What do the various colors of the almond flower mean?
White Almond Flower
In the Ecclesiastes (12:5), the white almond blossoms are used as a symbol of the passage of time and the transiency of life. They symbolize old age — just before they fall, the white petals of the almond flower represent graying hair.
Pink Almond Flower
In the folklore, the pink almond blossoms are often associated with weddings. It is said that pink almond blossoms are heaped at a traditional gypsy bride’s wedding in Spain. Namely, all the guests heap pink almond flowers over the head of the bride while she dances. Similarly, in Greece, a certain wedding tradition includes pouring of almond blossoms over the bride’s head, as a type of blessing.
Interesting facts and characteristics of the almond flower
- The almond tree belongs to the same genus of trees as the peach, apricot, cherry, and plum trees. Almond flowers are botanically related to roses and orchids, and are often called ‘the queen of the rose family’.
- The almond flowers are edible—they can be eaten raw and used as garnish. Almond blossoms are sometimes added to complementary dishes including marzipan, maraschino cherries and ice cream. The blossoms are also used as a decorative element in various cocktails.
- The almond flowers completely depend on wild bees and honey bees for pollination. Because of this, the farmers rent bees for pollination, which significantly increases the cost of almond production. The continued global decrease in the bees population is a high-risk for the almond producers.
- In an interesting study, scientists from the University of Haifa found that the nectar of the almond flower contains a toxic substance. This poison is not harmful for the bees, and the bees are particularly attracted to it.
- Flowering branches of the almond tree are carried into synagogues at the time of the Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat, celebrating the arrival of the spring.
- The largest producers of almond in the world are California (USA), Spain, Italy, Morocco and Iran.
- The almond nut is actually the seed of an almond tree fruit. Technically, the almond fruit is a drupe. The edible part is the kernel (seed), located inside the elongated shell.
- There are approximately 30 varieties of almond trees, only 10 of which are cultivated commercially.
- In a letter to his brother, Vincent van Gogh described his now famous painting series, Almond Blossom, with obvious satisfaction. ‘It is perhaps the best, the most patiently worked thing I had done, painted with calm and with greater firmness of touch,’ wrote van Gogh. Sadly, he finished the last painting of the blossoming almond tree just a few months before his death by suicide.
- The amygdala, often described as the core fear system of the human body, is a cluster of almond-shaped cells near the base of the brain. The amygdala is named after the Greek word for almond, ‘amygdale’.
- The Hebrew word for almond is ‘shaked’. This word is also a popular name in Israel for both boys and girls.
The best time to gift someone almond flowers
The almond flower meaning includes hope and new beginnings. Therefore, almond flowers can be a delicate and thoughtful gift to couples, on the occasion of their engagement or a wedding. In that context, it is recommended to select almond branches with pink blossoms.
White almond flowers are more commonly associated with the fleetingness of the time, and fragility of life, but they also have a strong spiritual symbolism. Therefore, one can consider gifting an almond branch with white blossoms to an elderly person, on the occasion of their birthday or anniversary. This would be a celebration of their longevity, and an act of honoring their knowledge, wisdom and guidance.