Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) also called grenadine, or clove pink is a flowering plant in the genius Dianthus, family Caryophyllaceae.
It is probably native to the Mediterranean region but its exact range is unknown due to extensive cultivation for the last 2,000 year.
One of the world’s oldest cultivated flowers, the carnation is appreciated for its ruffled appearance, clove-like scent, and extended blooming period.
The carnation is an herbaceous perennial plant growing up to 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) tall.
The leaves are glaucous greyish green to blue-green, slender, up to 15 centimeters (6 inches) long.
The flowers are produced singly or up to five together in a cyme; they are from 3 to 5 centimeters (1.2 to 2 inches) in diameter, and sweetly scented; the original natural flower color is bright pinkish-purple, but cultivars of other colors, including red, white, yellow and green, have been developed. The fragrant, hermaphrodite flowers have a radial symmetry.
Carnations are among the most popular commercial cut flowers, being used in floral arrangements, corsages, and boutonnieres.
While all carnations symbolize love and affection, the color of the flower also carries meaning:
• Red: Deep Love and Admiration
• White: Pure Love and Good Luck
• Pink: A Mother’s Love
• Yellow: Disappointment or Rejection
• Purple: Capriciousness
• Striped: Rejection or Regret
Carnations are rich with mythology, symbolism and even debate, mostly because of the name.
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.
“Dianthus” was coined by Greek botanist Theophrastus, and is derived from the Greek words for divine (“dios”) and flower (“anthos”).
The legend that explains the name is that Diana the Goddess came upon the shepherd boy and took a liking to him. But the boy, for some reason, turned her down. Diana ripped out his eyes and threw them to the ground where they sprouted into the Dianthus flower.
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, and in 1907 was chosen by Ann Jarvis as the emblem of Mother’s Day, now observed in the United States and Canada on the second Sunday in May.
In South Korea, red and pink carnations are used by children for showing their love and gratitude toward their parents on Parents Day.
In France, it is a traditional funeral flower, given in condolence for the death of a loved one.
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.
It is the birth flower for those born in the month of January.