Why are Carnations Spain’s National Flower?

When you hear about Spain, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is the European country’s deep historical roots and rich culture and traditions. It’s also a popular holiday destination for tourists worldwide, and one of the reasons is its people. Such characteristics embody the beautiful country of Spain. But behind its popularity are symbolisms that represent Spain as a country in many different ways. A case in point is the red carnation – the national flower of Spain. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about why the carnation is Spain’s national flower and how it gained a spot in Reino de España’s national symbols.  

Why are Carnations Spain’s National Flower

About Carnation Flowers 

Carnations or Dianthus caryophyllus, known in Spanish as Clavel, are herbaceous perennial plants from the family of Pinks (Caryophyllaceae). The name means “flower of the gods” in Greek and “incarnation” of God in Latin. They are rich in meaning and symbolism and also offer a host of uses and benefits

Also called clove pinks, carnations can grow up to 18 to 20 inches tall and produce beautiful flowers in different shades of color. Although one of the most popular is the red carnation, pink, white, yellow, and scarlet carnations are also in demand. Because of the hybridization of carnation flowers, variegated cultivars flaunt different bi-color or tri-color petals. Each flower is about 4 cm wide, and features frilled petals and a clove-like fragrance.

Dianthus is the second most popular flower next to roses. To boot, it is one of the oldest ornamental plants in cultivation, with reports of growing carnations from over 2,000 years ago. Because of its ubiquitousness, this prominent bloom has always been a subject of plant breeding, resulting in countless carnation hybrids for commercial production. 

Currently, many types of carnations are grown worldwide, with major commercial production areas in Colombia, Israel, and Spain. 

Why the Carnation Became the National Flower of Spain

Why the Carnation Became the National Flower of Spain

One sure thing about carnations is their worldwide prevalence, which remains true in Spain. In fact, Spain is one of the major commercial producers of carnation flowers. The remarkable blooms are highly favored cut flowers in the country and are often used at weddings, funerals, and other occasions and cultural traditions.  

Although there is no official declaration of why and how the carnation became Spain’s national flower, the bloom’s relevance in the country’s history, culture, and traditions speaks for itself. 

Carnations and the Spanish Civil War

The carnation has been associated with Spain for centuries and has played a prominent role in the country’s history. It became an important symbol during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) when it was used as a sign of opposition against General Francisco Franco’s regime. The red carnation symbolized resistance and solidarity with the Republican cause.

The Cultural Significance of Carnations in Spain

Bullfighting, a popular Spanish tradition, is one example of how the national flower exemplifies the county’s rich culture. In bullfighting ceremonies, carnations are given to the matador at the end of the bullfighting show. Another pivotal part of Spanish culture and traditions is the flamenco, a traditional Spanish dance in which carnations are also instrumental. Flamenco dancers are often found adorning red carnation flowers on their heads. 

Carnations and Religious Symbolism in Spain

Flowers are significant in different religions. And as for Spain, a religious country closely linked to Christianity, carnations play an important symbolism. The national flower is a sacred symbol of the passion of Christ. In addition, carnations are symbolic flowers during the El Rocio Pilgrimage as it is believed that Virgin Mary’s tears when she lost her son turned into carnation petals. 

The Kingdom of Spain holds many celebrations across the country, which carnations likewise participate in. For instance, the people of Carabanchel in Madrid celebrate the feast day of their Patron Saint, San Isidro, in May. During the festivities, red and white carnations are being sold. These are often worn in the hair during such celebrations. Other national Spanish celebrations in which the carnation flower is relevant are the Day of the Pilar and the Cordoba Patios festival.

Not only are carnations omnipresent during Spanish celebrations, but one can quickly spot these charming red blooms surrounding traditional Spanish white houses in rural Andalusia, a southern region of Spain.

As for the romantic side of Spanish culture, particularly during the Romanticism period, carnations were often used by Andalusians to express love to a loved one by holding the flower in their mouth while playing the guitar under the window.

Why is the Carnation Spain’s National Flower – FAQs: 

Why is the carnation Spain’s national flower?

The carnation is considered Spain’s national flower due to its deep historical and cultural significance in the country.

How did the carnation become a symbol of resistance in Spain?

During the Spanish Civil War, supporters of the Republic wore red carnations as a symbol of their opposition to Franco’s Nationalist forces. The carnation represented their desire for freedom, democracy, and social justice. The association of the carnation with the Republican cause led to its adoption as a symbol of resistance against the Franco regime.

Does the carnation have any cultural significance in Spain?

Yes, the carnation holds cultural significance in Spain. It is often used in traditional Spanish festivals, such as the Feria de Abril in Seville, where women wear flamenco dresses adorned with carnations. The flower is also widely used in traditional Spanish weddings, bouquets, and other festive occasions.

Is there any other reason why the carnation is Spain’s national flower?

While the carnation’s association with the Spanish Civil War is a significant factor, it’s also worth noting that the flower has been cultivated in Spain for centuries and has become deeply ingrained in the country’s culture. Its vibrant colors and pleasant fragrance have made it a popular choice for celebrations and decorations throughout Spain.

Are there any specific types of carnations associated with Spain?

Yes, in Spain, the red carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) is particularly associated with its role as a national symbol. However, other colors of carnations, such as white and pink, are also commonly used and appreciated in various cultural and traditional contexts.

Are there any official declarations or laws that establish the carnation as Spain’s national flower?

There are no specific laws or official declarations that formally establish the carnation as Spain’s national flower. Its status as a national symbol stems from its historical and cultural significance rather than a legislative decree. However, the carnation’s association with Spain remains widely recognized and acknowledged.

Wrapping Up: The National Flower of Spain – The Carnation Flower 

Spain is a notable country with rich history, culture, and traditions. Considering the popularity of carnations in this European country, it is understandable how it has become Spain’s floral emblem. Carnation is a widely popular ornamental in the country and for all the good reasons.  

As the national flower of Spain, carnations hold different meanings and symbolisms that represent the country in many aspects. The alluring flowers take part in several traditional festivities, as well as religious celebrations and activities. With its importance in Spain’s culture and traditions, it can be hard to think of carnation flowers without them being associated with the beautiful country of España.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the best companion plants for carnations, and carnation plant toxicity to pets.

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