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Sweet Pea Flower Meaning and Symbolism in the Language of Flowers

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In the language of flowers, while the daisy symbolizes innocence, the fragrant sweet pea flower carries symbolism of departure and adieu, giving depth to the sweet pea flower’s meaning.

Have you ever been affectionately referred to as “sweet pea” by a loved one? This charming nickname originates from this beautiful flower!

Let’s unlock the Pea flower’s meaning and symbols to discover the secrets this April birth flower has carried for centuries.

Sweet Pea Flower Facts

Appearance and Characteristics of sweet peas

The sweet pea flower originates in the Mediterranean regions like Sicily and the Aegean islands. These delicate flowers grace us with their presence from winter through spring and are a proud member of the Fabaceae family, commonly recognized as the legume or pea family. While it is not a crop pea, they are closely related.

Interestingly, while the Fabaceae family ranks third in size after the orchid and aster families and boasts popular legumes like chickpeas and fava beans, sweet peas differ from their cousins. 

Their tendrils allow them to climb and spread, making them a popular choice for gardeners looking for a versatile flowering plant. 

Given adequate support, they can reach 6 to 8 feet; without, they adopt a bushy, mound-like growth, extending only about 1-2 feet in dense clusters.

However, the allure of the sweet pea flower isn’t in its taste. These captivating, self-sufficient flowers are celebrated mainly for their delightful aroma. The fragrance of sweet peas is dynamic, varying with the time of day and even the prevailing weather conditions. Most find its scent bewitching, with one notable exception: flies seem to have an aversion to the smell of these lovely blooms!

Appearance and Characteristics of sweet peas

Sweet Pea Name Origin

Sweet peas, scientifically known as Lathyrus odoratus, are known for their vibrant colors, ranging from pure white sweet peas to yellow sweet peas, purple sweet peas, and even orange sweet peas. These flowers bloom in the spring, showcasing delicate soft petals and a feast for the eyes. 

The naming of this flower is as poetic as its appearance. Their name derives from the Greek word “lathyros,” which means “pea or pulse”, and the Latin word “odoratus,” which translates to “fragrant”. Both these words perfectly describe the sweet pea – a scented pea flower.

Sweet-peas, goodbye, sweetheart!
Sweet-peas, goodbye, sweetheart!

Cultural Significance of Sweet Pea Flowers

Introduced to the world by a Sicilian monk in the 17th century, the sweet pea’s journey from Sicily and southern Italy to the rest of the world is a tale of admiration and love. In the 19th century, Henry Eckford was instrumental in hybridizing and popularizing the sweet pea, making it a household name.

Sweet peas are often associated with heartfelt goodbyes in the language of flowers. In some cultures, giving a bouquet of sweet peas is a way to say goodbye and thank you. They’re also tied to the world of brides, often gifted for good luck on their wedding day.

What Do Fragrant Sweet Pea Flowers Symbolize?

Sweet Pea Flower Facts

  • Sweet peas, though exuding a sweet fragrance, are not edible. This sets them apart from the edible garden pea.
  • Lathyrus odoratus belongs to the legume family and shares the family traits of producing pods.
  • The “Cupani” variety is believed to be the original sweet pea from Sicily.
blue sweet pea
blue sweet pea

More Fun Facts

  • Although sweet peas are native to Sicily, they’ve been widely cultivated across Europe and other parts of the world.
  • Due to its strong scent when in bloom, which is one of the most powerful among flowers, sweet pea is often incorporated in gardens and floral arrangements 
  • We’re unsure if bees prefer sweet peas as food, but they are attracted to these popular flowers.
  • Fragrant varieties are often labeled as “heirloom” or “old fashioned 
Red sweet pea flower
Red sweet pea flower

Growing Sweet Pea Varieties

Sweet peas can be grown as annuals or perennials. Annual sweet peas prefer full sun and need support for their climbing habit, while perennial sweet peas varieties do well in typical soils and need only moderate watering. A myriad of sweet pea varieties offer many colors, from salmon pink and peach to fuschia, mauve, and periwinkle blue. Interestingly, despite the best efforts of cultivators, there are no yellow sweet peas varieties.

Sweet Pea Name Origin

What Do Fragrant Sweet Pea Flowers Symbolize?

In the language of flowers, the sweet pea flower meaning is multifaceted. They symbolize delicate pleasure, gratitude, and a way to say farewell. Their symbolism of sweet bliss and fond memories makes them a preferred choice for many occasions.

Symbol of Blissful Pleasure

During the Victorian era, sweet peas were exceptionaly popular, making frequent appearances at weddings and aristocratic gatherings and often called the Queen of Annuals. In floriography, they symbolized blissful pleasure.

Token of Friendship and Gratitude

Beyond mere pleasure, the sweet pea also carries meanings of friendship and gratitude. It’s a flower often gifted as a farewell token, a silent way of saying, “Thank you for the wonderful moments. Goodbye.”

Bridal Protection in France

In France, the tradition is to present sweet pea flowers to brides on their wedding day. This gesture aims to ward off spitefulness and negativity, ensure her purity remains intact, and bestow upon her good fortune.

Youth and Beauty: 

The delicate and fresh look of the sweet pea has made it a representation of youthful beauty and grace.

Memory and Remembrance: 

The sweet pea’s association with parting and farewells makes it a flower also linked with memories and holding onto cherished moments, like poppy flower.

Cultural Significance of Sweet Pea Flowers

April birth flower: Why Daisy and the Sweet Pea?

The Daisy and Sweet Pea are the official birth flowers for April. Beautifully symbolize the transitional essence of the month, bridging winter’s end and spring’s full bloom. The daisy, representing enduring innocence and loyal love, pairs harmoniously with the Sweet Pea’s symbolism of fleeting pleasure and tender farewells. Together, they encompass the depth of emotions and life experiences, reflecting the multifaceted personalities of those having April birthdays. Their combined aesthetics and fragrances, thriving in the cool spring temperatures, capture the renewal and promise inherent in this vibrant season.

April birth flower: Why Daisy and the Sweet Pea?

Sweet pea flower meaning and symbolism for different colors

White Sweet Peas: Denoting innocence and purity, white sweet peas, known as Clotted Cream, White Frills, and Dorothy Eckford, are favored for their ethereal appeal, often gracing wedding bouquets.

Orange Sweet Peas: Radiating enthusiasm and zeal, the vibrant orange hue of these flowers encapsulates a spirited and lively energy.

Red Sweet Peas: Echoing the deep sentiments of love, passion, and fervor, red sweet peas ardently convey these intense emotions, like red roses.

Pink Sweet Peas: Emblematic of beauty, youth, and grace, pink variants like Fire and Ice, Gwendoline, and Mollie Rilstone captivate with their soft and charming allure.

Purple Sweet Peas: Exuding regality and a sense of pride, the purple shades of sweet peas, particularly Cupani and Matucana, are reminiscent of royal eminence and distinguished elegance.

Blue Sweet Peas: Representing the rare, the unique, and the tranquil, blue sweet peas are a symbol of desire, serenity, and distinctiveness.

Uses of Sweet Pea Flower petals

Unlike the typical edible pea, sweet peas are not safe to eat. In fact, consuming them can harm humans, cats, dogs, and horses.

Sweet pea are a popular choice as cut flowers and are integral to floral arrangements. Pea plants can work well in hanging baskets, as they don’t require as much support as climbing varieties. Their vibrant colors and delicate nature make them an ideal choice for decorative purposes.

Fly Repellent

Surprisingly, while L. odoratus is delightful to our senses. Flies beg to differ. Upon detecting its scent, they’ll promptly depart, making it an excellent choice for outdoor gatherings and occasions.

bouquet of sweet pea flowers
bouquet of sweet pea flowers

Thoughtful gift to give

A bouquet of sweet peas is more than just a collection of beautiful flowers. It’s a way to say “thank you for a lovely time” and to bid someone goodbye. In the world of flowers, few blossoms carry the depth of emotion and history that the sweet pea does. It remains a cherished gift, speaking a universal language of love, gratitude, and memory. 

Sweet Pea Flower Meaning and Symbolism in the Language of Flowers
Vladka Merva on October 13th, 2023

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