Ambrosia has a beautiful name, but it’s the genus that includes many ragweed varieties that cause seasonal allergies. Despite some of the varieties being troublesome, other more decorative types carry important symbolic meanings. These flowers were popular in both Ancient Greek myth and as part of the Victorian flower language. Learn more about their symbolic value to gain a deeper appreciation for these common roadside flowers.
- Ambrosia Flower Meaning & Symbolism – the Essentials
- About Ambrosia Flowers
- Ambrosia – Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
- Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances
- History & Origins of Ambrosia Flowers
- Popular Ambrosia Types, Species, and Cultivars
- Etymological Meaning
- What Regions are Ambrosia Flowers Native to?
- When are Ambrosia Flowers in Season?
- Uses and Benefits of Ambrosia Flowers
- Ambrosia Flower Meaning & Symbolism
- The Cultural Significance of Ambrosia Flowers
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Ambrosia Flowers
- How to Care for Fresh Cut Ambrosia Flowers at Home
- Wrap Up
- Ambrosia Flower FAQs
Ambrosia Flower Meaning & Symbolism – the Essentials
In the language of flowers, Ambrosia carries the symbolic meaning of love and devotion. Specifically, the Victorians used it to symbolize reciprocated love between two people. It’s also associated with immortality due to its references in Greek mythology.
About Ambrosia Flowers
You’ve likely seen an Ambrosia flower at least once in your life because it’s one of the most widespread weeds on the planet. Yet you may not have known you were even looking at a plant with thousands of years of history behind it.
Ambrosia – Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Ambrosia is an entire genus of related plants that are all also commonly known as ragweeds. There are nearly 50 species in the genus, but it’s just a part of the larger Asteraceae family. This means it’s distantly related to many daisies and other flowers.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances
Most Ambrosia plants have relatively small flowers, but they vary greatly in other botanical characteristics. Some are only a few inches tall or crawl along the ground, while others are tall and measure 4 feet tall or more. A few Ambrosia species produce burred or winged seeds.
History & Origins of Ambrosia Flowers
Ambrosia was first recorded as a herbal medicine and symbolic plant in Ancient Greece, but it’s rarely been cultivated throughout history. The plant spread into Western Europe in the mid-1800s with red clover seeds shipped from North America.
Popular Ambrosia Types, Species, and Cultivars
Few Ambrosia species are cultivated or grown on purpose at all. The most widely spread species include common ragweed, or Ambrosia artemisiifolia, and Ambrosia trifida, or great ragweed. They’re common all over North America and Europe alike.
The name Ambrosia comes from the Ancient Greek term for immortality. It’s a combination of the prefix a- for “not” and mbrotos for “mortal”. This is a reference to the name’s use for the food of the Gods that granted them immortality. Ragweed is a reference to the ragged appearance of the leaves.
What Regions are Ambrosia Flowers Native to?
Most of the Ambrosia species are native to North America, including the most widely spread varieties. Some are native to Asia or Russia instead.
When are Ambrosia Flowers in Season?
Ambrosia is a late flowering plant that generally doesn’t start blooming until July or even August. The plants usually continue blooming through September and October in most areas and only end whenever the first hard frost arrives.
Uses and Benefits of Ambrosia Flowers
Ambrosia flowers aren’t just symbolically powerful. Some of the species in the genus are also considered edible or medicinal value. Ironically, it’s often recommended as a treatment for hay fever, which is a condition it can also cause due to its irritating pollen.
A few species are considered toxic to animals, but most are attractive to bees and good for supporting local pollinators.
Ambrosia Flower Meaning & Symbolism
Aside from the potential value of it as a medicinal herb, Ambrosia plants can have a wide range of symbolic uses.
Common Ambrosia Flower Colors and their Meaning & Symbolism
Most Ambrosia flowers are only barely colorful, but there are few colors that can add additional layers of symbolism to the bloom:
- Cream: Charm, thoughtfulness, peace, grace, and healing
- Yellow: Joy, friendship, happiness, confidence, and success
- Mauve: Devotion, powerful love, gratitude, and hope.
The Cultural Significance of Ambrosia Flowers
Ambrosia flowers aren’t showy when compared to other blossoms. However, they still carry plenty of significance due to their name.
Ambrosia Flowers in Ancient Greek Mythology
The Ambrosia genus has a long and storied history in Ancient Greece. The name was used for two distinct sets of myths that were not directly related.
Firstly, it was the name for the food of the Gods that helped bestow immortality upon them. It was a food delivered to Mount Olympus each morning by doves, and it was described in various stories as being a substance like a tree sap or honey. This use of the Ambrosia name isn’t directly linked to the plant of the same name, but it nonetheless links the plant with a meaning of nourishment and sustenance.
The Nymph of Dionysus
The other mythology primarily associated with Ambrosia in Ancient Greece was the story of a nymph in the retinue of the god Dionysus.
When the king of Thrace tried to forbid the worship of the god in his kingdom, he also attacked them directly. Ambrosia tried to hide by turning into a grapevine, but she was cut down by the king in his rage anyway. Dionysus turned the nymph into the flower we know as Ambrosia today.
Since this nymph was also one of the nurses that helped raise Dionysus, it helped give the flower a symbolic meaning of care and support.
Ambrosia in the Victorian Language of Flowers
Ancient Greeks were not the only people to appreciate the Ambrosia plant.
Victorians also assigned it a meaning as part of their Flower Language. When included in a bouquet, even the humble Ambrosia flower sent a message of devotion and romantic love.
In particular, Ambrosia flowers were used to represent reciprocated love between two people. It could also be a request to see if someone else reciprocated your feelings. Many bouquets sent between secret loves in the Victorian era included this flower that was often overshadowed by more colorful blooms to disguise the true message.
This makes the Ambrosia flower a timeless, romantic, and understated gesture.
Confusion with Wormwood
Many varieties of Ambrosia feature foliage that is similar to that of Wormwood plants.
Common ragweed in particular can be confused for Mugwort and Wormwood until it begins to form blooms. While it doesn’t share the same meanings or medicinal uses as Wormwood varieties, both plants have a similar history of hundreds of years of use.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Ambrosia Flowers
Thanks to the strong romantic meaning, Ambrosia flowers are a great addition to wedding bouquets and anniversary gifts.
This is a great flower for letting someone know you return their feelings or continue to feel the same way about them.
How to Care for Fresh Cut Ambrosia Flowers at Home
Ambrosia flowers stay fresh for days as long as they’re kept in fresh water. Add a few drops of bleach to the vase to keep bacteria from becoming a problem.
Any measures taken to keep other flowers mixed with the Ambrosia will be sufficient to keep them looking their best too.
For more, see our comprehensive guide to fresh-cut flower care.
While ragweed may cause allergies and grow aggressively in many parts of the world, it’s also a symbolic flower with plenty of meaning. The meaning of the flower may have changed since Ancient Greece, but it’s still widely available today. Consider working the common Ambrosia flower into your next romantic floral arrangement.
Ambrosia Flower FAQs
What do ambrosia flowers mean?
The ambrosia flower carries the symbolic meaning of reciprocated love and desire, but it can also signal healing and growth.
Why is ragweed called Ambrosia?
Ambrosia is the genus name for the entire family of ragweeds, and it has had that name since the days of Ancient Greece.
Is ragweed considered an invasive plant?
It varies depending on the country and the state, but many areas do consider it invasive and request its destruction. Check local restrictions before planting.
Do ragweeds come back every year?
Some ragweed varieties return year after year because they’re perennial and have a thick root. Other varieties rely on self-seeding instead to overcome an annual growth habit.
What do ambrosia flowers smell like?
The flowers themselves have no odor. The foliage of some species has a spicy odor when crushed.
Petal Republic’s Flower and Plant Guides:
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Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.
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