Calla Lily Meanings, History and Uses

Calla Lily Flower Meaning

calla lily flower symbolismThe symbolic meaning associated with the calla lily is magnificent beauty. Calla lilies are native to southern Africa. On the African island Madagascar, the calla lily thrives due to the steady temperatures and moderate seasons. Calla lilies will bloom all year around as long as they have a sufficient supply of water, energy and nutrition.

The calla lily was by the Romans in association with the winter solstice. The lilies were forced to bloom indoors during the darkest time of year to celebrate the preservation of the light and bringing the light indoors. Calla lilies were often associated with funerals, only later to become a popular wedding flower.

The lily was a sacred flower to the Minoans and also prized among the ancient Jews. In Christian iconography, the flower came to represent purity and chastity. In contrast with this, the flower's large spadix, a phallic flower stalk containing many male (pistillate) and female flowers, was symbolic of lust and sexuality among the Romans. As mentioned above, calla lilies have been viewed as a symbol of death and associated with funerals. In this capacity, they have been placed on the graves of youth who have suffered untimely deaths.

The Modern Discovery of Calla Lilies

Carolus Linaeus and Calla LilyThe calla lily is not actually a lily, but a separate genus. The calla lily was first catalogued in modern times, probably in the mid 1700s, and misnamed by the famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linneaus. Later the German botanist Karl Koch found the error and establish a new genus, zantedeschia, for the calla lily and related flowers. However, the original common name of "calla lily" has continued to be used. The calla lily is a flowering genus of twenty-eight species growing mostly in marshy areas. The calla lily grows continuously in water and can survive mild frost. Calla lilies make hardy cut plants and can survive for quite a while in vases. A single calla lily in a tall vase in a classic statement of elegance and beauty.

Calla Lilies in the History of Art

Calla Lily PaintingGeorgia O'Keeffe successfully brought the calla lily to prominence with her series of close-up paintings of single calla lily flowers. She wanted to have the viewer really look at the fundamental form of the flower without any preconceived notions. Her sensual flowers redefined the flower as a pure, almost geometric form.

Georgia O'Keeffe's "Calla Lilies with Red Anemone" (1928) recently was sold for $6.2 million at a Christie's auction in New York. The calla lily is also visible in many of Diego Rivera's works of art.

For more on flower symbolism, try our recommended books from Amazon:
Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants and Trees
The Language of Flowers: Symbols And Myths
The Language of Flowers
The Meaning of Flowers
Forget-Me-Not: A Floral Treasury Sentiments and Plant Lore

Calla Lily Photos for Projects and Design

Need photos of cala lily? Please visit Dreamstime Stock Photography. Dreamstime is a distinguished leader in stock photography and a major supplier of high quality digital images at unbelievable prices. The Dreamstime database is renewed with thousands of fresh images and titles on a daily basis. See more photos here.

Plant Calla Lilies in Your Garden this Year

Find plants, trees and flowers at Nature Hills Nursery, Inc. Nature Hills Nursery offers one of the largest selections of high quality live plants and related products online, complete with extensive plant information, while maintaining an exceptional level of customer service.

Flower Bouquet Order Bouquets and Flowers
The extensive FloristOne catalog features flowers for every occasion and an extensive network of florists that allows for same day delivery to nearly all of the United States and Canada. Send a classic gift with special meaning for a birthday, baby's birth, holiday, sympathy, graduation or other special occasion. Nothing else communicates your sentiments quite as well as flowers. See our selection of bouquets and flowers here or go directly to the FloristOne website to see all flowers available.

©2008-2010 Living Arts Enterprises, LLC

Yeh, Ning. An Album of Chinese Brush Painting: Eighty Paintings and Ideas. Huntington Beach, CA: Ning Yeh's Art Studio, 1986.

Copeland, Robert Morris (1830-1874). Country life: a handbook of agriculture, horticulture, & landscape gardening.

Martha Stewart Living, Volume 2

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