Heather Flower: Meaning, Symbolism, and Colors

Widely cultivated in rock gardens for cut flower arrangements, heather varieties are most commonly found in Europe and Asia Minor. They are also naturalized in parts of North America, Australia, New Zealand and the Falkland Islands as well. These flowers are found in copious amounts in Scotland. The name heather comes from the Scottish word haeddre, which describes a heath land or a shrub land habitat.

The heather flower meaning is powerful because of the Scottish legend. There was once a woman named Malvina who married a warrior, Oscar. Unfortunately, Oscar was killed in a battle, and a messenger delivered Malvina this message along with heather flowers that were a token of love. This flower was bright pink but as soon as Malvina started crying it turned white. From then on, Malvina wished that whoever received heather flowers would have happiness and good luck.

Heather (scientific name: Calluna vulgaris) also known as Common Heather, Ling, is an evergreen bush.

One of the primary plant species grown on poor, acidic sandy soils. They bloom in the late summer from the month of July to September. The common Heather comes in white to pink and a wide range of purples and reds. Normally mauve in wild plants, white-flowered plants also occur but only occasionally. Even though the flowers turn brown, they still remain on the plant overwinter and can make for interesting decorative effects.

Calluna is closely related to the genus Erica (also called true heaths). It was first distinguished by Richard Anthony Salisbury. The Calluna is distinguished from Erica by its petals(corolla) and sepals(calyx). Calluna has miniature scale leaves (less than 2–3 mm long) borne in the opposite, crossing pairs, whereas Erica leaves are larger and in whorls of 3–4, sometimes 5. Calluna sometimes wears dual flowers. Calluna is sometimes referred to as Summer (or Autumn) heather to differentiate it from winter or spring flowering species of Erica.

Calluna vulgaris has numerous uses. The young juicy shoots and the seeds of heather are the principal food of the red grouse, and ripe seeds of heather are eaten by many other species of birds. Large stems of the heather flower are made into brooms, shorter ones are tied into bundles to form brushes, and long trailing shoots are woven into baskets. Additionally, the plant is also used for bedding. With the peat about its roots, it serves as an effective fuel. Furthermore, the huts of Scottish Highlanders were formerly made of heather and heath stems cemented with peat mud mixed with dry grass or straw. Today temporary sheds are often built similarly and roofed with heather.

What Does the Heather Flower Symbolize?

The heather flower meanings may be several, but each meaning is worth knowing.

  • Heather flowers symbolize independence and confidence, as the flower grows in places which are quite hard for any other flower to grow.
  • By bringing the flower home or even carrying it, the flower shows signs of good luck.
  • In Scotland, a bride’s bouquet contains a sprig of white heather for good luck.
  • It is also said that heather flowers are also a sign of beauty and admiration, as they come in different beautiful colors.
  • And as per the Scottish legend mentioned above, these flowers would shower happiness and good luck on the receiver. It is due to this that Scotts consider heather flowers as a sign of protection.

Heather flower meaning and symbolization also have a unique history attached to them:

  • Due to her appreciation for Scottish lore and traditions, Queen Victoria popularized the meaning of heather as good luck in England.
  • Due to the scarcity of the heather flower in the Victorian era, the flower was associated with good luck.
  • A Scottish clan, in the sixteen century, Clan Ranald believed that they won a battle. They wore white heather in their bonnets, which gave them both luck and protection.

Cultural Significance of Heather Flowers

R.L. Stevenson, a Scottish poet and writer, wrote a poem called ‘Heather Ale’. The poem is about the Vikings and the Pictish King. According to the poem, the Picts army defeated the Vikings. The Vikings cornered the king and his son on a cliff in an attempt to gain the recipe for Heather Ale. The king said that he would rather be thrown off the cliff than give up the recipe of Heather Ale. The king loses the battle and takes the recipe to his grave.

What Do the Various Colors of the Heather Flower Mean?

We all know each color has a different significance, and they influence the overall meaning of a flower. Similarly, each color of heather has a specific meaning associated with it. The various colors of heather flower meanings are enlisted for you, and we should be careful about each one and offer them on appropriate occasions.

Purple Heather Flower:

They symbolize beauty, strength and adoration. They are thought to be an ideal gift for telling someone how beautiful and essential they are to you and how much you respect and admire them.

Pink Heather Flower:

They stand for femininity, friendship, love and passion. So, pink heather flower bouquets are used to express your feelings towards the woman in your life. It also shows how much you love them and want them to be a part of your life.

White Heather Flower:

White heather flowers are used by brides in their bouquets as well as in wedding floral arrangements. It is also used at home as decor to bring in positive energy and good luck at home. The white flowers represent good luck, protection, innocence and purity.

Red Heather Flower:

In ancient times, red and pink heather flowers were considered a sign of bad luck because they were connected to blood. Therefore, people avoided taking these colors into their homes or even as a gift to others.

Yellow Heather Flower:

Yellow heather symbolizes wealth, positivity, and good luck for the future.

Interesting facts about the Heather flower

  • Common heather is a perennial plant which can survive for 30-40 years in the wild.
  • A heather flower has about 30 Heather seeds. So, a heather plant will produce close to 150,000 seeds per season. This is why they are so abundant with such a wide distribution.
  • In the past, they were used as a source of yellow-orange pigment for painting wool.
  • The scientific name of Heather, Calluna vulgaris comes from two words – ‘Kallune’, a Greek word meaning to clean or brush and ‘vulgaris’, a Latin word which means common.
  • Sometimes also referred to as ‘Ling’ which is derived from – either old Norse, Lyng or from Anglo Saxon, Lig. It means fire and further referred to as use for fuel.
  • These flowers are used in Swedish herbal medicine as a traditional remedy.
  • Common heather is used for the manufacturing of beddings, stuffing for pillows, and in the industry of ropes, baskets and packaging material.
  • Heather tea is used to dissolve kidney stones.
  • It is still used by some to aid in the urinary tract and digestive conditions, among other things.
  • It is also used as a flavoring agent in the beer, wine and tea industry.
  • The cosmetic industry also makes use of heather for the production of shampoos, lotions, baths and perfumes.
  • It’s also used topically, as the plant has some antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.
  • People also put it into the bath for this reason to promote healthy skin.
  • It’s also used in aromatherapy in several forms to treat anxiety and insomnia, both as an essential oil and in candles.
  • Honey made from common heather has a jelly-like texture and a strong taste.
  • Some people also relate heather flowers to good luck and fortune and choose to carry them at all times like a lucky charm.
  • According to some legend whenever you see a heather flower blossoming, it is said that fairies are living nearby.

Best time to give someone a Heather flower

Based on the symbolism and the heather flower meaning, there are a few situations where gifting them would be ideal.

  • If you want to show someone who you think is independent and can handle any hard situation, a heather floral arrangement would be a great idea. This will help lift their spirits.
  • It would also make an excellent gift for someone who requires a little good luck in something they want to achieve or even as a parting gift.
  • You can also place one of these flowers at your work desk.
  • Heather flowers can also be offered to the women in your life to let them know they are beautiful and loving, like the flowers.
  • It makes for an exceptional gift for someone when you want to express your love feelings or show how much you admire them and value their presence in your life.