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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dianthus caryophyllus
This is a Carnation that is commonly found in bouquets.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Dianthus
Species: D. caryophyllus
Binomial name
Dianthus caryophyllus

Dianthus caryophyllus (Clove Pink) is a species of Dianthus. It is probably native to the Mediterranean region but its exact range is unknown due to extensive cultivation for the last 2,000 years. It is the wild ancestor of the garden Carnation.[1][2][3][4]

It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 80 cm tall. The leaves are glaucous greyish green to blue-green, slender, up to 15 cm long. The flowers are produced singly or up to five together in a cyme; they are 3–5 cm diameter, and sweetly scented; the original natural flower colour is bright pinkish-purple, but cultivars of other colours, including red, white, yellow and green, have been developed.[4][5]


Cultivation and uses


Growing Carnations

Carnations require well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil, and full sun. Numerous cultivars have been selected for garden planting.[4] Typical examples include 'Gina Porto', 'Helen', 'Laced Romeo', 'Red Rocket'.


Sentiment and symbolism

A Carnation cultivar

Carnations are often worn on special occasions, especially Mother's Day and weddings. They were known as "Jove's Flower" in ancient Rome as a tribute to one of their beloved gods. In Korea, red and pink Carnations are used for showing their love and gratitude toward their parents on Parents Day (Korea does not separate Mother's Day and Father's Day, but has Parents Day on May 8). Sometimes, you can see parents wear a corsage of Carnation(s) on their left chest on Parents Day. Not only on Parents Day, but also on Teacher's Day (May 15), people express their admiration and gratitude to their teachers with Carnations, as Carnation has the meaning of 'admiration', 'love', and 'gratitude'.

It is the national flower of Spain, and the provincial flower of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands. It is also the symbol of the Portuguese Carnation Revolution. The state flower of Ohio is a scarlet carnation. The choice was made to honour William McKinley, Ohio Governor and U.S. President, who was assassinated in 1901, and regularly wore a scarlet carnation on his lapel.[6]

Carnations painted by Redouté

For the most part, carnations express love, fascination, and distinction, though there are many variations dependent on colour:

  • Light red carnations represent admiration, while dark red denote deep love and affection.
  • White Carnations represent pure love and good luck, while striped (variegated) carnations symbolise regret that a love cannot be shared.
  • White Carnations are the official flower of the fraternities Delta Chi, Delta Sigma Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, and Zeta Psi, as well as for the sorority Chi Omega.
  • Red Carnations are the official flower of Alpha Chi Sigma the national professional chemistry fraternity.
  • Red Carnations are the official flower of Sigma Lambda Beta.
  • Red Carnations are the official flower of Phi Kappa Tau, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and Theta Chi fraternities.
  • Red Carnations are the official flower for Eta Phi Beta sorority
  • Rose Carnations are the official flower of the Phi Mu Fraternity.
  • Red Carnations are the official flower of the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority.
  • The Red Carnation is the official flower of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Fraternity for College Bandmembers.
  • Carnations are the official flower of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, as they are the longest lasting flowers.
  • Green carnations are for St. Patrick's Day and were famously worn by the Irish writer Oscar Wilde. The green carnation thence became a symbol of homosexuality in the early 20th century.
  • Purple carnations indicate capriciousness. In France, it is a traditional funeral flower, given in condolence for the death of a loved one.
  • Pink carnations have the most symbolic and historical significance. According to a Christian legend, carnations first appeared on Earth as Jesus carried the Cross. The Virgin Mary shed tears at Jesus' plight, and carnations sprang up from where her tears fell. Thus the pink carnation became the symbol of a mother's undying love.
  • In 1907 Anna Jarvis chose a carnation as the emblem of Mother's Day because it was the favourite flower of her mother.[7] This tradition is now observed in the United States and Canada on the second Sunday in May. Ann Jarvis chose the white carnation because she wanted to represent the purity of a mother's love.[8][9] This meaning has evolved over time, and now a red carnation may be worn if one's mother is alive, and a white one if she has died.[10]

The carnation is the birth flower for those born in the month of January. In some cultures, however - especially France and Francophone culture - the carnation symbolises misfortune and bad luck.

At Oxford University, carnations are traditionally worn to all examinations; white for the first exam, pink for exams in between and a red for the last exam.



Carnations do not naturally produce the pigment delphinidin, thus a blue carnation cannot occur by natural selection or be created by traditional plant breeding. It shares this characteristic with other widely sold flowers like roses, lillies, chrysanthemums and gerberas.

Around 1996 a company used genetic manipulation to extract certain genes from petunia and snapdragon flowers to produce a blue-mauve carnation, which was commercialized as Moondust. In 1998 a violet carnation called Moonshadow was commercialized. As of 2004 three additional blue-violet/purple varieties have been commercialized.[11]


Some scholars believe that the name "carnation" comes from "coronation" or "corone" (flower garlands), as it was one of the flowers used in Greek ceremonial crowns. Others think the name stems from the Latin "caro" (genitive "carnis") (flesh), which refers to the original colour of the flower, or incarnatio (incarnation), which refers to the incarnation of God made flesh.

Although originally applied to the species Dianthus caryophyllus, the name Carnation is also often applied to some of the other species of Dianthus, and more particularly to garden hybrids between D. caryophyllus and other species in the genus.




  1. ^ Med-Checklist: Dianthus caryophyllus
  2. ^ Flora Europaea: Dianthus caryophyllus
  3. ^ Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
  4. ^ a b c Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  5. ^ Flora of NW Europe: Dianthus caryophyllus
  6. ^ Anderson's Online Documentation: Floral emblem of state (Ohio)
  7. ^ Leigh Eric Schmidt (1997). Princeton University Press. ed. Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (reprint, illustrated ed.). p. 260. ISBN 0691017212.  
  8. ^ Louisa Taylor, Canwest News Service (2008-05-11). "Mother's Day creator likely 'spinning in her grave'". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2008-07-07.  
  9. ^ AP (2008-05-11). "Mother's Day reaches 100th anniversary, The woman who lobbied for this day would berate you for buying a card". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-07-07.  
  10. ^ "Annie's "Mother's Day" History Page". Retrieved 2008-06-26.  
  11. ^ "GM Carnations in Australia. A Resource Guide". Agrifood Awareness Australia. November 2004.  

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