The orange blossom is the flower of orange tree varieties (mostly Citrus sinensis and Citrus aurantium)—citrus species in the family Rutaceae. The orange blossom flower owes its name to the Sanskrit word “naranga”, meaning “orange tree”. The even older root of the word is of Dravidian origin. Through the Persian related word “narang” and the Arabic word “naranj”, the name of this flower reached the European languages.
The orange tree cultivars range in size, from dwarf varieties to six meters tall trees. The tree crown can spread to a diameter of up to 6 meters. The orange blossom flowers are beautiful, bright and scented. They begin to develop over the winter, and they usually blossom in spring. The nectar of the orange blossom flowers turns into a high-quality honey.
The orange blossom flowers are small and they grow in dense groupings or clusters. Their color is always white. Each flower has five waxy petals, five sepals and 20–25 stamens arranged in a compact spiral. The leaves are green and glossy, with oval or elliptical shape and wavy-toothed edges.
The orange blossom flowers are edible but rarely harvested for the food industry. Primarily, the orange blossom flowers are distilled into aromatized water and essential oils. For example, the expensive oil neroli is produced from the orange blossoms of the bitter orange tree. The orange blossom scent is often described as fresh, sweet and smooth.
The orange tree is a subtropical species, native to oriental Asia (India, China and South-East Asia). The Italian and the Portuguese traders introduced the tree to the Mediterranean, where it is still widely spread across Spain, Italy, Morocco and Tunisia. In the mid-sixteenth century, the orange tree was brought to the Americas. Today, orange trees grow worldwide.
What do orange blossom flowers symbolize?
The orange blossom flower meaning includes love, purity, moral virtue, fertility and paradise.
Orange blossom flowers as a symbol of marital union and fertility
In Roman mythology, Juno gave orange fruits and blossoms to Jupiter, on the day of their nuptials. In Greek mythology, Hera received orange blossom flowers as a wedding gift from the goddess Gaia, at the time of her wedding to Zeus. Due to these myths, the orange fruit and the orange blossom flower meaning have strong symbolic association to the marriage ritual, wedding ceremonies and celebrations.
Traditionally, in England, France and America, the brides once attached to their veils head crowns or coronets made of orange blossom flowers. Prince Albert sent to Queen Victoria a brooch made of gold and porcelain, shaped like a sprig of orange blossoms. In 1840, Queen Victoria wore orange blossom flowers at her own wedding, both as a headdress and as part of her satin dress. This made the flowers exceptionally popular. In the 19th century there was a new phrase: “to gather orange blossoms”, which meant “to seek a wife”.
The origins of this custom have been traced to the Saracens, who considered the orange blossom flower an emblem of a happy and prosperous marriage. It is believed that the crusaders, on their way back from Persia, brought orange blossom flowers to their brides-to-be.
In one Spanish fairytale, a certain maiden, the daughter of a gardener at the Royal Palace, could not marry because she did not have enough dowry. Her fiancé, too, was too poor, and could not afford to support her. One day, the French Ambassador visited the Spanish royal family. Upon seeing the beautiful blossoms of the orange tree in the garden, he wished to get a cutting from this tree. The maiden promised to bring it to him, if exchange for him helping her to get married. The French Ambassador desired the orange blossom tree so much, that he agreed to pay her a large sum of money for the coveted cutting. On her wedding day, the maiden wore a chaplet of orange blossom flowers.
In Crete, orange blossom flower water is sprinkled over the bride and the broom. In Sardinia, there was a custom in which oranges were attached to the horns of the oxen which drew the carriage with the newlyweds. In Mexico, a garland made of orange blossom flowers, twisted in the shape of the figure eight, is places around the necks of the newly-wed couple.
The orange three is one of the very few trees on which foliage, flowers and fruit can be seen simultaneously. This fact impressed people so much, that the orange blossom flower meaning became fulness, completion and fertility.
Orange blossom flowers symbolize afterlife
Folkard reported that in Tripoli, along with roses, jasmine and myrtle, orange trees were once planted around the tombs. Also, a large bouquet of these flowers was fastened at the head of the coffins in which a female rested. Similarly, in Switzerland, when a young woman died, the funeral wreath was made of orange blossom flowers, myrtle and hawthorn.Therefore, another orange blossom flower meaning is associated with the afterlife.
Orange blossom flowers symbolize the forbidden knowledge
It was often speculated what was the forbidden fruit which Adam and Eve tasted from the Tree of Knowledge in Paradise. Interestingly, among the apple, pomegranate, fig and grape, the orange is often mentioned as the most likely forbidden fruit. As a result, another orange blossom flower meaning is the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Christian paradise.
Orange blossom flowers symbolize good fortune
To the Chinese, the orange blossom flower meaning was money, good luck and prosperity.
What do the various colors of the orange blossom flower mean?
The orange blossom flowers are always white.
White orange blossom flower
According to the encyclopedic book “The Complete Language of Flowers” of Theresa Dietz, the white orange blossom flower meaning is innocence, chastity, eternal love, marriage, fruitfulness and generosity. In the Victorian symbolic language of flowers, white orange blossom flowers carried the message “your purity equals your loveliness.”
Interesting facts and characteristics of the orange blossom flower
- Dried orange blossom flowers and leaves are also used for preparation of an exquisite tea.
- The orange tree is an evergreen tree.
- The neroli essential oil, produced by distilling orange blossom flowers from the bitter orange variety, was named after Anne Marie Orsini, the Princess of Nerola, Italy. In the 17th century, the Princess was the first one to use the flower essence as a perfume. She added neroli to the bath water and also perfumed her glasses with this oil.
- The King of France Louis XIV particularly liked the scent of the orange blossom flowers, as it soothed his chronic headaches. He also added the essence of orange blossom flowers to his drinks, and sprinkled the orange flower perfume in his chambers, using silver syringes.
- The essential oils made from the orange blossom flower tree calm anxiety and are used to treat depression. One ton of orange blossoms yields only one kilogram of essential oil.
- The harvesting of orange blossom flowers is best done at dawn, because at that time the odorous components of the flowers are most concentrated.
- Citrus tangerina, a variety of the orange tree known under the common name Mandarine orange or tangerine, has been cultivated in China for over three millennia.
- Along with the lemon, the sweet orange tree first arrived in the Americas with Columbus’ second voyage.
- Several renaissance paintings display oranges on the table during “The Last Supper”. Yet since oranges have not been cultivated in the Middle East until the 9th century, this depiction is wrong.
- The orange blossom flower is the official flower of the American state of Florida.
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez used the symbolism of the orange blossom flower in his novel “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”. One of the protagonists, Angela Vicario, in spite of her lack of chastity, shamelessly wore orange blossom flowers in her gown on the day of her wedding.
- In the United States, June 27 is celebrated as the National Orange Blossom Day.
- Orange flower water was popular in Sicily in the 14th century. It was used as a scent for household linen.
- The motif of orange blossom flowers appears in sheet music, including “Orange Blossoms Waltz” by G. Ludovic and “Orange Blossom Time is June” by George Spink and W.R. Williams. Another popular title is “When It’s Orange Blossom Time in Loveland, I’ll Be Waiting at the Church for You” by Jeff Branen and Arthur Lange.
- The color orange was named after the fruit of the orange tree in the early 16th century.
- The scent of the orange blossom flower has also been considered an aphrodisiac.
- There is a French electronic and world music band with the name “Orange Blossom”.
The best time to gift someone orange blossom flowers
Traditionally, across cultures and geographies, orange blossom flowers have been used in marriages, which makes them a perfect wedding gift. They never come out of fashion, and are still a common sight in wedding celebrations.
Due to their white color and a delicate, sweet scent, orange blossom flowers have also been perceived as a symbol of spirituality and the afterlife. Flower arrangements made of these blossoms are often brought to funerals.