Italy is a beautiful country and it is actually the fifth most visited country in the world. For those who live there or have visited, it is easy to see why. Even those of us who have only seen photos of the country immediately acknowledge its beauty and history. Although many of us may not speak Italian, what we do have in common is our love and appreciation for beauty — especially floral beauty. Italians love beautiful things, whether that’s art or nature. That’s why it should come as no surprise that the national flower of Italy is one that is absolutely beautiful: the white lily.
However, have you ever wondered why the white lily is the national flower of the country? In addition, did you know that there is a lot of folklore and symbolism associated with this flower? In this article, we’ll cover all you need to know about the white lily and its place in Italian culture.
The Geographic Context for Italy’s National Flower
For those of us who remember learning our world geography, Italy was always the easiest to recognize. That is because it is a peninsula shaped like a boot! Italy is surrounded, except to the north, by the sea. Since it is a long peninsula, it has a pretty unique geography as well as climate. Typically, Italy has a Mediterranean climate. This means that the winter season is pretty mild with some rain. Summers, on the other hand, are usually quite hot, dry, and sunny. Still, you can expect a totally different experience in northern Italy in comparison to southern Italy. The south in Naples and surrounding areas rarely ever see snow. Meanwhile, the north has tons of mountain lakes that are great for swimming.
Overall, Italy has a unique regional topography and this is what makes it such a popular travel destination. In this kind of climate, there is also incredibly unique flora that grows throughout the country. In fact, the areas in which the country’s native vegetation grows can be separated into three distinct zones: the Alps, the Po valley, and the Mediterranean-Apennine area. Let’s find out how the white lily was chosen as the national flower and where it grows in the country.
The White Lily: The National Flower of Italy
The white lily is the national flower of Italy. When you take a look at this flower, it’s easy to see why Italy chose it to represent them. In fact, this beautiful flower has even been ranked the fourth most popular flower in the world. The flower is also known as Lilium candidum and the Madonna lily. It is a plant in the true lily family and is native to the Balkans and Middle East. However, it has also been naturalized throughout parts of Europe, such as Italy. It is also a flower that has been cultivated on the earth since ancient times. In fact, it has been cultivated for nearly 3,000 years.
The white lily is also a quite fragrant flower. As their name states, they are easily identified thanks to their full white outer appearance and light yellow inside. They are often described as looking like trumpets. It is because of their unique appearance that many use them as centerpiece flowers or in bouquets.
As a flower that has been around for so long, it has managed to cultivate a lot of folklore and symbolism to it as well. In our later sections, we’ll go over where the white lily grows in Italy as well as the cultural significance of this flower.
Where Do White Lillies Grow in Italy?
In Italy, the white lily can be found all throughout the country. These flowers are known to bloom between the middle of spring and all throughout the summer. Most lily species grow best in temperate and tropical conditions. They are also capable of growing in a wide variety of areas. They are known to grow in grasslands, forests, mountains, and marshes. However, they remain dormant during the winter season.
Now that we know more about where lilies grow, let’s discover more about their cultural significance.
What Is the Cultural Significance of the White Lily?
For ages, the white lily has had a very important cultural significance, especially in Italy. For starters, the white lily has been known to represent modesty, purity, and refined beauty. The Roman Catholic Church eventually adopted the white lily (Madonna lily) to symbolize the Virgin Mary. They felt that the flower was the perfect symbol, as the white color of the flower symbolized Mary’s purity, innocence, and connection to God. It was also associated with the Holy Family. This symbol was chosen in particular because of the appearance of the three buds on a single stem that distinguishes the lily from other flowers.
What Is White Lily Used For?
Although the white lily is known for being beautiful, throughout history, it has been used for so much more. It has a rich history of being used for medicinal purposes. For example, many cultures make use of the entire flower including the leaves, bulbs, and roots in order to make oils and balms. In ancient times, Romans used Madonna lilies to soften the hard soles of their feet and to help treat corns and boils. Egyptians once used the plant to treat burns on the skin and overall inflammation.
Throughout the Elizabethan era, these flowers were used to help those suffering from arthritis and to clean out wounds. It was also used as a way to lower fevers. Additionally, as we mentioned, lilies have a beautiful fragrant scent. Thanks to this beautiful scent, they have been used in perfumes, make-up, and cosmetic creams. It was once believed that if you mixed lily petals in with honey, the mixture could be used to remove wrinkles. While today a lot of this has been disputed, it is fascinating to learn all about how the white lily was once used as a practical medicinal tool.
How to Grow White Lillies
After learning about how beautiful and fragrant the white lily is, you may be wondering how you can grow them yourself. Luckily, the white lily is a flower that you can easily grow at home. For starters, it is important to note that the best time to grow these flowers is in the autumn season or in the early spring. You can grow them in your backyard garden or indoors inside a pot.
If you want your lily to grow healthy and strong, you’ll want to use permeable soil rich in organic matter. The best pH levels for a lily’s soil are between 6.0 and 6.5. In addition to proper soil, lilies need a lot of sunshine to thrive and grow. They should be planted or placed in an area where they can get a lot of sunshine. However, they should not be placed in an area where they will feel the tremendous heat of the afternoon sun.
Other Native Plants and Flowers of Italy
As we mentioned previously, Italy has a gorgeous and diverse landscape. From alpine mountains to beautiful Mediterranean coastlines, there is a lot to see here. Thanks to this diverse landscape, the flora of the country is also incredibly awe-inspiring. A great example is la pianta di corbezzolo — the strawberry tree. The strawberry tree is the national plant of Italy. It was chosen to represent the country because of its beautiful green leaves, white flowers, and red berries. The colors come together to represent the colors of the Italian flag.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Mariia Romanyk
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