Heather is a widely admired plant for the sea of color that it brings to hillsides, mountains, moors, and what we call “heathland” in honor of how this plant spreads across harsh climates where other plants would simply die.
The heather flower means different things to different cultures, but one thing is for sure, these tiny flowers have captured imaginations for centuries.
Broadly, these flowers are believed to invite good luck.
What does the Name ‘Heather’ Mean?
When it comes to heather, there is some confusion as to where the original word came from.
Most likely, it’s derived from the Old English word hadre or hedre, which first appeared in place names in written records.
In the 18th Century, the name changed to heather, which stemmed from the word heath, meaning an open expanse of wild land.
These gorgeous flowers are mostly native to Scotland.
The Meaning Behind Heather Flowers
Color helps determine the meaning of a heather flower, as each color has a specific meaning.
Having said that, one meaning that doesn’t depend on color is the symbolism of confidence and independence, referring to its habit of growing in nearly in-hospitable places.
What does Purple Heather Symbolize?
Purple heather symbolizes adoration, beauty, and resilience. In the Victorian language of flowers, purple symbolizes beauty, and being worthy of absolute admiration.
What does White Heather Symbolize?
White heather is rarer in the wild, so white in particular is meant to bring luck and protection. It also stands for wish fulfillment.
In some parts of Scotland, it’s believed that white heather only grows where blood has never been shed.
What does Yellow Heather Mean?
Yellow heather symbolizes wealth, positivity, and good luck for the future.
What does Red Heather Signify?
Red heather means a deep, passionate love which seems almost vital. It is sometimes regarded as bad luck as it reminds people of blood.
What does Pink Heather Mean?
Pink heather represents femininity, friendship, and warm affection.
The Heather Flower Meaning in Scotland
Historically, heather flowers have a wealth of symbolism in Scotland. There are a few legends attached to this flower.
White heather is specifically used in bridal bouquets, thanks to a 3rd century legend. A girl called Malvina was the daughter of a legendary Scottish poet, Ossian.
She was betrothed to Oscar, a Celtic warrior.
Before they could get married, Oscar was killed in battle. The messenger gave Malvina purple heather along with the bad news, which was Oscar’s token of love.
In this legend, Malvina’s tears turned the heather flowers white. Seeing this, she promised that white heather would now only bring good luck.
White heather is believed to bring luck to whoever picks it, and protection to the wearer.
What are Heather Flowers Used For?
Modern Use of Heather Flowers
Heather is a very versatile plant which has been used for jewelry making, brewing wine and beer, and flavoring honey.
It’s also used topically, as the plant has some antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. People also put it into the bath for this reason to promote healthy skin.
Both the leaves and the flowers can be used as an infusion. It’s also used in aromatherapy in several forms to treat anxiety and insomnia, both as an essential oil and in candles and perfume.
Historical Use of the Heather Flower
Heather was often used by the Celts and the Druids to help cleanse the digestive system.
People have used the stems to make broom bristles in the past, due to the strength and resilience this plant has.
The flowers were also used to dye wool and cloth, where it could produce colors such as purple, yellow, bronze, and green.
Can You Eat Heather?
While they are often used to add a “note” of flavor to wines, beers, and honey, which suggests this plant is very safe, you won’t find people eating it in its natural state.
It’s better to eat something that has an infusion of heather in it than to attempt to eat the plant itself.
The flowers are really too small to pick and eat by hand – and why would you, really? The stems are extremely woody, and have been used in the past as construction materials. It was used in walls, ropes, and thatched roofs.
The Fragrance of Heather
It’s often used in cosmetics for its scent, and one of its original uses was to stuff mattresses, as its slightly minty scent was believed to help promote a good night’s sleep. The flowers are also traditionally used to stuff cushions.
The flowers by themselves are heavily scented, and smell a little like honeysuckle.
When Should You Give Someone Heather Flowers?
Heather flowers are suitable for many occasions, but especially in times when you want to wish someone the best of luck.
They might be starting a new job or a new stage of life, or you may be parting ways with them.
These tiny flowers also symbolize resilience and independence, due to the harsh conditions they’re naturally found in.
If someone’s having a rough time, heather flowers can help lift their mood ever so slightly. They’re a sign that while things are difficult now, you recognize the strength within them.
While the heather plant has a whole host of benefits when it comes to the uses we’ve found for it, it’s also an important part of the ecosystem.
Heather is a favorite of pollinators, and provides cover and food for a range of species.
It also creates an unforgettable display in the wild, covering hillsides and large spaces in a sea of purples, whites, and pinks.
While you can simply look up the botanical properties of flowers, it’s also worth looking into the folklore, the legends and stories that surround them, as these can give you a greater insight into its historical uses and history.
If you look at the common names of plants, they usually hint at its history, symbolizing our relationship with plants through the ages, still surviving time.
Heathers are very low maintenance plants which are perfect for creating a big display of color.