Primula auricula, also known as auriculas, bear’s ears, or mountain cowslips, have long attracted both botanists and home gardeners with their lovely blooms and cultivars that grow in a seemingly infinite range of colors. These hardy perennials offer a bright splash in the spring and sometimes winter landscape. Native to alpine slopes and Central Europe, the Victorians treasured these lovely flowering plants; in the language of flowers, auriculas hold the symbolic meaning of “deserved merit.”
Auricula Flower Symbolism – Key Takeaways
To the Victorians, auriculas were symbolic of “deserved merit.” The perennials, which grow in a stunning array of colors, feature in art and writing from the era. Notably, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre uses “purple Auriculas” to symbolize Jane’s feelings of hope at leaving behind an oppressive childhood.
“Auricula” comes from the Medieval Latin auricularis, which pertains to hearing (as in “hearing a confession”). These flowers are considered so named due to their ear-shaped form; one of their common names is “bear’s ears.”
Auricula Flower Meaning & Symbolism
Auricula blooms in a virtual rainbow of colors thanks to years of cultivation and cross-breeding. Blossoms range from dark burgundy and purple to creamy white and bright yellow. Some cultivars boast unusual hues, such as matte green, buff, and mustard yellow. Many types feature petals of more than one color, with differently hued centers or edging.
In the language of flowers, auricula symbolizes “deserved merit.”
The Cultural Significance of Auricula Flowers
To the Victorians, auricula flowers represented deserved merit, imparting a sense of worthiness. This theme is present in the era’s literature, such as Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre. Auriculas feature in a passage that describes Jane’s state of mind as she sees light at the end of the tunnel as her time at the oppressive Lowood School draws to an end: “flowers peeped out amongst the leaves; Snowdrops, Crocuses, purple Auriculas and golden-eyed Pansies.”
Along with the achievement symbolized by auricula blossoms, pansies stand for thoughtfulness and reflection, crocuses for youth, and snowdrops for hope. Passages such as this clearly illustrate how the language of flowers sends a powerful message.
Auricula featured in European art of the same era. Belgian illustrator Pierre-Joseph Redoute, known as the “Raphael of flowers”, created botanical prints featuring P. auricula. Today, modern artist Georgie Hopton, whose work is exhibited at the Tate, often features auriculas in her work.
Suitable Gifting Occasions
Given auricula flowers’ association with deserved merit, these blooms make an ideal floral gift to say “Congratulations” or “Job Well Done.” They’re perfect for a graduate, a promotion, or other commemorative occasions.
The auricula’s range of colors and pleasant fragrance also makes them a good choice to give as a potted plant. Traditionally, they’re grown in terracotta pots, which makes them easy to gift.
Keep them looking fresh by avoiding over-watering and removing dead flower heads. Keep auricula plants in a cool, partially shaded spot, and avoid letting the flowers or feet stay wet.
For more, see our comprehensive guide to fresh-cut flower care.
Auricula’s association with deserved merit makes them an ideal floral gift when congratulations are due or when a major life transition is underway. These lovely perennials offer a range of blossom hues and shapes that add texture and color to your landscape or container garden.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.