Last updated on May 22nd, 2023 at 10:18 am
A unique flower, the Diphylleia grayi, or the skeleton flower, is a sight to behold, especially during rainy days. Belonging to the Berberidaceae family and the Diphylleia genus, this rare flower doesn’t like hot summers. It’s a lesser-known relative of fairy wing and mayapple.
This flower is found only in three locations in the world: along the moist wooded mountain sides of colder regions in China and Japan and the Appalachian Mountains in the United States.
There are three different species for these three regions—the Appalachians have Diphylleia cymosa, Japan has Diphylleia Sinensis, and China has Diphylleia grayi. The plant is widely distributed across North to Central Honshu, Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and Mount Daisen.
It’s mainly of Chinese origin and translates to glass flower or skeleton flower. The flowers are recognized by the bright yellow and green centers. In late summertime, the flowers fade and get replaced by the eye-catching fruit of cobalt blue color.
These flowers first appear in early spring, with the folded-up leaves slowly unfurling. The flowers appear next, blooming from May to July, with the deeply lobed foliage spreading over the stems representing an umbrella-like spread. The skeleton flower is a deciduous perennial that dies in the winter. The delicate, tissue-thin flowers are affected by moisture that turns them into translucent blooms.
Also called the umbrella plant or the Asian umbrella leaf grows in large, fuzzy green clumps with umbrella-shaped foliage, and clusters of white skeleton flowers bloom in late spring.
When the flowers dry up, they turn a faded white, and the plant transforms into reddish seed stalks with clusters of bright blue-purple berry-like fruit with a powdery coating.
What Does The Skeleton Flower Symbolize?
Usually, the skeleton flower signifies affection and happiness. This mystical flower is often called the chameleon of the woods due to its varying appearance. Being surrounded by blooms of skeleton flowers helps relax the mind and body. This leads to the skeleton flower meaning to represent peace and calm.
All in all, the skeleton flower symbolic meanings are:
Meaning Of The Skeleton Flower Color
The skeleton flower is typically white with yellow centers. These flowers change color only during rain or when exposed to water. They turn almost transparent, only to return to their original white color when dry.
As for the other variations of the skeleton flower, the Diphylleia cymosa, an ornamental plant native to the United States, is similar. The white flowers have six petals and grow in dome-shaped clusters above the foliage.
The Diphylleia sinensis, or the Chinese umbrella leaf, also has similar white blooms. There are no other known variant colors of the skeleton flower.
Interesting Facts About The Skeleton Flowers
- The Diphylleia cymosa plant was discovered in the Appalachian Mountains and named by French botanist Andre Michaux.
- In 2015, Jonghyun, the South Korean artist and member of Shinee (a boy band), composed and released the song ‘Diphylleia Grayi’ for his album Story Op. 1. The double-leaf metaphor has been used in the composition of the song to personify struggles, both internal and external.
- In September 2015, Jonghyun released the book ‘Skeleton Flower: Things That Have Been Released and Set Free.’
- When the white petals are touched by water, the water gets absorbed. The cell gap of the flower is filled, with the light changing from reflection to refraction, creating a translucent effect.
- In traditional Chinese medicine, Diphylleia sinensis has been used to treat coughs, malaria, jaundice, etc. It’s known to have antiseptic properties. The podophyllin in this plant is an anti-cancer component. This led to the skeleton flower meaning to signify cure.
- The flowers of Diphylleia cymosa last for one or two weeks, giving way to clusters of berry-like fruit that ripen during the summer months.
How To Grow Skeleton Flowers
Growing and caring for skeleton flower plants is usually low maintenance.
- Plant the skeleton flowers deep, rich in humus, and consistently moist yet well-drained.
- Place the plant in a shady location, completely protected from the hot noontime and afternoon sun.
- Water the plant slowly and deeply.
- Add a balanced fertilizer once a month during the growing season.
How To Care For Skeleton Flowers
- Water the skeleton flower plant when the top layer of soil feels dry
- Add a thin layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help keep moisture in.
- Apply a complete fertilizer in the early spring if there is not enough natural organic matter from fallen leaves.
- Deadhead spent blooms to promote new growth.
- Cut off dead foliage to allow new leaves to unfold without hindrance.
Best Time To Gift Skeleton Flowers
While it isn’t typically gifted to anyone, since skeleton flowers are rarely occurring exotic plants, several accessories are made to signify skeleton flowers.
More commonly, Diphylleia grayi seeds could be gifted. Although growing the skeleton flower from seed is unreliable, techniques are prescribed to help. It would be best to give someone living in colder regions a potted, bonsai variant of Diphylleia grayi or the seeds for the possibility of flowering eventually.
Generally, a skeleton flower as a gift isn’t very common.
A unique feature of the skeleton flower is that when exposed to rain (or water), it transforms almost magically into a translucent beauty, representing its skeletal form. The white petals appear completely clear in the wet form and return to their original white color as they dry.
With a shady and moist environment, gardeners eager to witness the unique characteristics of the flower’s sensitivity to moisture could plant this white woodland blossom.