Borage Flower Meaning and Symbolism

While borage is usually grown as an annual to attract plenty of bees in the garden, it has other uses, too. 

For a start, it’s a beautiful star-shaped flower in the most vivid shades of blue, purple, and brilliant white. 

The height of the plant means that it does well in most herbaceous borders, and it’s also an excellent companion plant for crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and courgettes. 

Borage is also classed as a herb, which is edible in small amounts. You can include these gorgeous flowers in salads, or even cocktails to add a cucumber note.

It’s worth noting that the plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, some of which are dangerous and harmful to your health.

This enigmatic flower also has a lot of symbolism behind its petite form. Here’s everything you need to know.

Behind The Name: What Does ‘Borage’ Mean?

The name ‘borage’ originates from the Arabic abū ḥurāš, and this translates to ‘father of roughness’ referring to the bristly leaves. 

It belongs to the Boraginaceae plant family, which is a huge category comprising 2000 different species, including comfrey, lungwort, and the forget-me-not.

The borage comes from the Mediterranean, though it has naturalized in many warm parts of the world. It’s also grown as an ornamental summer plant in colder climates. 

How to Recognize a Borage Plant

Borage grows between 60 and 90cm tall depending on the cultivar, and every part of the plant bar the flowers are covered in silvery white hairs, which are prickly to the touch. 

The leaves can cause contact dermatitis if you have any skin sensitivities, so it is important to wear gloves to stop any irritation.

The plant produces many clusters of star-shaped flowers with a cone-like center. Both the unopened buds and the flowers usually point to the ground. 

Depending on the cultivar, the plant can flower all the way from June through until November.

The Borage Flower’s Historical Significance 

While borage is not originally mentioned in The Odyssey by this name, there are claims from the Greek physician Dioscorides, and Pliny, the Roman scholar, that ‘nepenthe’, the enigmatic flower which would ‘quiet all pain’ was actually borage.

In some tales, it’s said that Celtic warriors would wear the borage flower to represent their courage. 

In the Victorian language of flowers, borage was considered a less-than-complimentary message. 

It was often used to symbolize a coarse or blunt nature, someone who needs to learn better manners, thanks to the prickly foliage.

The Symbolism Behind the Borage Flower

Linnaeus claimed that the name ‘borage’ was a corrupted form ‘corago’, made of two Latin words, translated as ‘heart’ and ‘to act’. 

In some circles, people believe that this stands for courage, while others claim that this name refers to its medicinal qualities in treating heart complaints.

It’s also used as a symbol of hope, as the flowers are shaped a little like rays.

If you look at the prickly foliage and the delicate flowers, the borage represents knowing when to stand up for yourself, and knowing when to be kind and act for the interests of others, keeping a balance between the two.

What does a Borage Flower Tattoo Mean?

While an unusual flower for a tattoo, borage symbolizes courage and happiness, and the choice of being optimistic no matter what trials you may face in the future.

The flower itself has a delicate appearance, so it can also symbolize grace, a rare character, and good luck.

When Should You Give Someone Borage Flowers?

Borage isn’t a traditional gift when it comes to flowers, but it’s certainly a memorable one. 

As it’s believed that the plant can treat a host of medical ailments, it can symbolize a wish that someone stays happy and well.

The symbolism of courage also makes the borage plant a perfect gift when someone is about to undertake a new challenge or journey, telling them to go after what they believe in, because they deserve to have their dreams.

As borage isn’t grown for the cut flower market, you may find it difficult to source borage commercially, but luckily, it’s easy to grow from seed. 

It also self-seeds readily, giving you a steady supply of color for your own garden. 

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