Your Favorite Flower.. Where Did it Come From?

     A note from the author: For simplicity's sake, I have chosen to use the term "family" to represent a range of levels of taxonomic classification, and not to specifically reference the strict definition (of the taxonomic level lying between order and genus). If I say "the rose family", I am referencing a group encompassing all of the individual varieties of flowers which can correctly be called roses, i.e., members of genus Rosa (true roses), and some species commonly called roses that exist within other genera, but not necessarily all the members of the broader family, Rosaceae. In any case, thanks for understanding. -Ty

Whether a "standard," such as the classic red rose or something more exotic, like Protea, every flower hails from one of our planet's seven continents.

Yes, even Antarctica has a fossil record of flowering plants!

Thanks to exponential improvements in logistical and climate control technologies during the past century, most species of flowering plants can today be found "native born" on all continents... except Antarctica.

     But still, each has an indigenous home. And today, we will explore some of the most common and beloved varieties and trace their origins back to a time before enterprising Homo sapiens expanded their distributions.


     A diverse family of plants of which a vast majority of species have their origins in central and eastern Asia, roses are now the most extensively cultivated decorative flowers in the world. The garden roses that most people associate with the broader term rose are actually hybrids of two or more species. According to flower historian Jack Goody's exhaustive work, The Culture of Flowers (Cambridge University Press, 1993), people in ancient Greece, China, and Persia were hybridizing roses for their visual appeal at least as early as 500 BCE.

However, many varieties of rose, some bearing no resemblance at all to the famous garden rose, exist. There are even two native North American genera.


Tulips, cousin to the lilies, are broadly of Eurasian and north African origin, having their center of diversity in and around the Hindu Kush mountains of what is now Afghanistan. Tulips are now cultivated worldwide, most notably in the Netherlands.


Hydrangea- Indigenous to Japan, China, and Korea, these beautiful east-Asian flowering shrubs come in a wide variety of colors and have been cultivated and hybridized since before the time of Siddhartha Buddha. In Eastern culture, giving hydrangeas represents giving ownership of one's heart to the recipient. Pretty romantic if you ask me.


Lilies- Lilies comprise an enormous family of flowers endemic to the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Across nearly all human civilizations- from ancient Egypt to the Far East to medieval Europe, lilies have been given as gifts and used as decoration in homes and public places.


Daisies- The earliest fossils of daisies, relatives of the sunflower, were found in Antarctica. The daisies are the second largest family of flowers, after orchids, with over 23,000 classified species. Daisies currently grow wild on every continent other than Antarctica, with the widest and most diverse speciation existing in Central and South America. Australia has several unique varieties as well.


Ranunculus is of Latin origin, meaning "little frog," a reference to their affinity for damp, marshy areas. Buttercups are members of the ranunculus family. Most of these flowers have their origins in Europe. They generally have very shiny, slick petals and leaves. Another thing they all have in common is that they are all poisonous, although fortunately, the extremely acidic flavor of the cyanide compound in their leaves and flowers prevents both humans and livestock from ingesting lethal amounts.


     Because they are such an old, diverse, and widespread group (there are four times as many species of orchids as there are species of mammals on earth), the aboriginal home is uncertain. The tropical Americas enjoy the greatest range of orchid diversity, but there are unique species in western Africa, Oceania, and southern Asia. We humans have been cultivating orchids for millennia; longer, in fact than written language has existed in any culture.

     Thanks to modern technology, we are now able to enjoy first hand the beautiful and amazing biodiversity of flowers from across the entire world. It's an incredible blessing, and one that is easy to take for granted. But think about this: the bouquet or floral arrangement that you buy here at Rococo Floral Studio in Gadsden, once a small Alabama railroad town, contains flowers whose direct ancestors lived in environments as diverse as the gardens of Egyptian Pharaohs, the palaces of China's Ming Dynasty, the rocky hills where Aristotle and Socrates recorded their philosophies, the thrones of Roman emperors, and even the Holy Land walked by Jesus Christ and his disciples.

      The shapes, colors and fragrances of an area's flowers are perhaps the purest and most natural symbols of that place, each flower being perfectly adapted to the unique geological, environmental, and biological factors of its home. Flowers have both shaped and been shaped by human culture. At Rococo, we are thankful for and inspired by our access to the divine palette that flowers, as a medium of artistic expression, provide.

     Is it possible to give a more beautiful or meaningful gift than one that combines the colors and textures of God's own creation?

     From a historical perspective, at least, it appears that it isn't.