Flower and plant emblems of the UK – Online English Lessons

Anita Hunt of Nita Joy Craft Design has very kindly written me a guest post about the plants and flowers associated with some of the counties and countries of the UK.


Flowers and plants are used in so many ways throughout our lives.

They mark a variety of occasions such as the celebration of births and weddings, and the remembrance of someone’s life. And many of us love adding plants to our gardens, and protecting our wildflowers.

Many flowers have a meaning, and the language of flowers is also known as floriography. The significance of flowers doesn’t stop there, as they are also associated with country and county emblems.


The Tudor Rose has always represented England.

The Tudor Rose signifies the coming together of the red rose emblem for Lancashire and the white rose of Yorkshire after the War of the Roses ended in 1495, and Henry VII from Lancashire married Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV of Yorkshire.


Scotland’s flower emblem is the thistle, which is common throughout the country.

There are many stories about why the thistle was chosen for their emblem, one being that it dates from the 1263 Battle of Largs. The story says that when the Norwegians took off their shoes so as not to wake their Scottish enemies, they did not realise that beneath their feet was the painfully sharp thistle. Their cries of pain woke the Scottish army who won the ensuing battle.


Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland are represented by the shamrock, which is a three leaved plant similar to the clover.

The shamrock is also known as Wood Sorrel.

This plant’s story is that St Patrick used it to explain the Trinity from the Christian religion – the three leaves represent the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

St Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the 17th March each year and it is common to wear a shamrock in honour of this day.

In the USA, in towns and cities with a large Irish population, St Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated and many places have parades.

The phrase ‘In clover’, which has been previously mentioned by Angela in her series on English idioms, is also associated with the shamrock’s meaning.

The shamrock is associated with many mystical stories and often linked with the Irish Leprechaun.


Wales’ emblems are the leek and the daffodil.

These represent St David’s Day which is celebrated on the 1st March each year, in honour of the Welsh patron saint St David.

The leek was seen as a vegetable that would promote health and happiness, and so became an important symbol for Wales.

The importance of the daffodil is relatively recent compared to the leek: it was introduced as an emblem after being a part of ceremonies in the 1900’s.

County flower emblems

Some counties in the UK are historically linked with their chosen flower; for example the red rose, whose historical significance to the county of Lancashire dates back to the middle ages.

This particular flower emblem was also chosen quite recently, in 2002, to unofficially represent the United Kingdom.

To gain an insight into various flowers representing particular counties and countries the international wild plant conservation charity Plantlife ran a competition for members of the public to nominate a wildflower for their county flower emblem.

The Plantlife competition is a fascinating read. The results of the competition highlight areas of special interest, with flowers and plants particularly associated with a given area. Dorset and Cornwall, for example, are famous for their heath so this was chosen as their counties’ wildflower emblems.

To see a further list of the chosen wildflowers for various counties in the UK, please visit Plantlife’s website.

What flower or plant emblems do you have for your county or country?

Guest post by Anita Hunt from Nita Joy Design.

You can follow Anita on Twitter @NitaJoyDesigns   Read Anita’s blog: Handmade greeting cards

Images © Anita Hunt