The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Pincushion Flowers

Pincushion flowers have cute, button-shaped blossoms that range in size and color. Thanks to their copious and prominent stamens, pincushion flowers generally look like round pincushions full of sewing pins. These flowers make wonderful additions to any garden or bouquet. This guide will cover everything you need to know about Pincushion flower meaning, symbolism, and cultural significance today. 


Pincushion Flower Meaning – The Essentials

Pincushion flowers (Scabiosa) symbolize love, peace, and purity. They’re also associated with pure love. Historically, in the Victorian Flower Language, however, pincushion flowers symbolized unfortunate love, and dark burgundy pincushions represent widowhood and mourning.


About Pincushions (Scabiosa)

About Pincushions (Scabiosa)

Family, Genus, and Taxonomy

Scabiosa is a genus of about 30 species of plants that belong to the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) plant family within the Dipsacoideae subfamily.

Botanical Characteristics

Depending on the species, pincushion flowers can be either perennial or annual and either herbaceous or grow from woody rootstocks. Additionally, their foliage varies quite a bit between different species, with some having fairly plain leaves and others having hairy and lobed foliage.

The flowers blossom atop highly ornate, globe inflorescences. In most species, the inflorescences form atop stems. Some species, however, produce flowers without stems. Each flower has countless florets with four prominent stamens each, and each floret is individually cupped in a bowl-shaped bract. These florets, stamens, and bracts form the pincushion-like shape of the flowers. Surrounding this cluster of florets is an ornately lobed corolla.

Most pincushion flowers have a sweet, honey-like fragrance. They blossom in shades of lavender, lilac, blue, or creamy white, but some also bloom in colors like snowy white, pink, red, and burgundy.

What Regions Are Pincushion Flowers Native?

The Scabiosa genus has a relatively broad native distribution. Various species are native to the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, particularly the Middle East. Additionally, some species grow naturally in the mountains of eastern Africa.

History and Origins of Pincushion Flowers

Like countless other flowers, pincushion flowers were first grouped, categorized, and assigned scientific names by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus during the 18th century.

Popular Types of Pincushion Flowers

With about 30 species of pincushion flowers, there are countless varieties, hybrids, and cultivars. Some of the most popular include:

  • ‘Snow Maiden’ – This variety features large blooms in a snow-white hue.
  • ‘Fama White’ – This pincushion variety also features large, white flowers, but it also can thrive in cooler climates.
  • ‘Black Knight’ – This pincushion varietal has burgundy-colored flowers with contrasting white stamens.
  • ‘Butterfly Blue’ – Despite this varietal’s name, the flowers are closer to lavender than a true-blue color. This is one of the most popular pincushion flowers for wedding celebrations.
  • ‘Pink Mist’ – The flowers of this variety of pincushion flower are a soft pink color and so delicate that the blossoms are almost translucent.
  • ‘Black Cat’ – The flowers of this pincushion variety bloom in a burgundy that is so deeply pigmented it is almost black.

Etymological Meaning

Flowers of the Scabiosa genus are most commonly referred to as pincushion flowers or pincushions, and this is in reference to the pincushion-like appearance of their flower blossoms.

The genus name Scabiosa is Latin for “rough” or “scabby.” This name and the second-most used common name “scabious” are thought to come from the historical practice of using the flowers as a folk medicine to treat scabies, a parasitic skin infection that leads to the formation of a rash and itchy scabs.

When Are Pincushion Flowers in Season?

Pincushion flowers start blooming in early summer and continue through early fall.

Uses and Benefits of Pincushion Flowers

As mentioned above, pincushion flowers were traditionally used in herbal medicine to treat scabies. Today, parts of certain species of pincushion flower are used to treat symptoms like sore throat and cough. They are also still used topically to treat skin conditions such as scabies, eczema, and rashes.

Pincushion flowers are not toxic, so they are safe for households and gardens with pets and people of all ages.

Additionally, pincushions are highly attractive in gardens, borders, and beds. They’re also a popular cut flower for floral arrangements and bouquets. They are rich with sweet nectar, and attract a variety of pollinators as a result. These include butterflies and bees in addition to several types of moths.


The Meaning and Symbolism of Pincushion Flowers

The Meaning and Symbolism of Pincushion Flowers

The Symbolic Meanings of Common Pincushion Flower Colors

Generally, all kinds of pincushion flowers symbolize love, peace, and purity. Like all flowers, however, individual flower colors can also add additional symbolic meanings to flowers. You can always take the general symbolic meaning, but these colors lend the following symbolic meanings to flowers, too.

The National Flower of Mongolia

Mongolia’s national flower of pride is the Scabiosa comosa or “Ber Tseseg.” This particular species of pincushion flower is native to parts of Mongolia, blooms there throughout the summer, and comes in shades that range from light lavender to blue.

In Mongolia, the flower symbolizes tolerance and is commonly used to adorn silver plates on horse-riding saddles.

A Flower of Love and Loss – Scabiosa in Hanakotoba and the Victorian Language of Flowers

A Flower of Love and Loss – Scabiosa in Hanakotoba and the Victorian Language of Flowers

Pincushion flowers generally are thought to symbolize pure love, purity, and peace.

They do, however, also have some more negative and sad symbolic connotations. In hanakotoba, for example, they mean “I have lost all.” In the Victorian language of flowers, pincushion flowers represent unfortunate love. Plus, the sweet scabious (Scabiosa atropurpurea) – especially in its darker hues – symbolizes mourning and widowhood.

Pincushion Flowers in Famous Artwork

In 1886, Vincent van Gogh painted Still Life With Scabiosa and Ranunculus. This painting features pincushion flowers in burgundy and pink in addition to ranunculus blossoms in red and golden-yellow. The flowers stand against a drab backdrop of muted browns and greens. While many of Van Gogh’s impressionistic paintings made his name famous, this piece is in the style of Realism.


Suitable Gifting Occasions for Pincushion Flowers

Despite some of their darker symbolic meanings, pincushion flowers still represent pure love, peace, and purity. This makes them an excellent choice for any occasion. They are popularly included in various floral arrangements since the blossoms are readily available during most times of the year. Additionally, perennial pincushion flower seeds can make a great gift for anyone in your life who loves to garden.


Pincushion Flower Meaning FAQs:

What Does a Pincushion Flower Symbolize?

Pincushion flowers symbolize love, peace, and purity.

Are Pincushion Flowers Considered Lucky?

Pincushion flowers are not necessarily considered to be lucky flowers. However, they represent love, which could mean they are lucky for love.

Is a Pincushion a Flower of Love?

Since one of their primary symbolic meanings is love, pincushion flowers are considered to be a flower of love.

Do Pincushions Come Back Every Year?

It depends on the species of pincushion flower. Some species are annuals, while other species are perennials that come back each year.

How Long Do Pincushion Flowers Last?

With diligent deadheading throughout the season, pincushions flowers will bloom from summer through early autumn. In a vase, cut pincushion flowers last about a week.

Do Pincushions Bloom More Than Once?

Yes, pincushions can blossom repeatedly throughout the summer and into early fall. However, it is essential to remove spent blooms from the plants to encourage the formation of new blossoms.


Pincushion Flower Meaning – The Final Word

Whether you plant them in your garden to enjoy their blossoms throughout the summer and early autumn or use cut pincushions in your floral arrangements or wedding bouquet, these lovely flowers will surely bring love, joy, warmth, purity, and peace to your life with their fun and attractive blossoms. Just remember to avoid the darker shades of the blossoms if you wish to avoid the less-positive symbolic meanings associated with pincushion flowers.


Author

I’ve long been fascinated with the world of flowers, plants, and floral design. I come from a family of horticulturists and growers and spent much of my childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and greenhouses filled with tropical plants, cacti, and succulents from all over the world. Today, my passion has led me to further explore the world of horticulture, botany, and floristry and I'm always excited to meet and collaborate with fellow enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe. I hold a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and have trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris.

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