Britain’s symbolic blooms: The secrets of our national flowers

How the rose, thistle, shamrock and daffodil earned their status

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, many countires have adopted a flower as part of their national emblem - usually chosen for historical or cultural reasons. Most os us know England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are represented, respectively, by the rose, the shamrock, the thistle and the daffodil - but do you know how these particular blooms earned their patriotic status?

National Flowers Copyright: This is Glamorous

England: Tudor Rose 

The national flower of England is the rose – but not just any rose. The Tudor rose was adopted by Henry VII as England’s emblem of peace at the end of the War of the Roses – the civil wars of 1455-1485 between the royal house of Lancashire, whose emblem was a red rose, and the royal house of York, whose emblem was a white rose. The Tudor rose came to symbolise peace between the houses because it was a mix of both.




The red rose is used in the emblems of the England National Rugby Union team and the English Golf Union while the stylised image of the tudor rose, is seen on the dress uniforms of the Yeomen Warders at the Tower of London and in the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.

Scotland: The Thistle

Commonly found on the highlands and lowlands of Scotland, the thistle is the country’s national flower – and has been for at least the last five centuries. But how it came to attain this status is not so clear. One legend has it a sleeping party of Scots warriors were spared ambush by an invading Norse army when one of the enemies trod on the spikes of a prickly thistle, rousing the warriors from sleep with his pained cry.




The emblem can be found everywhere from the strip of the international rugby team and football clubs to the uniform of police officers, the thistle is also an important heraldic symbol. Founded by James III in 1687, the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry, which is awarded to those who have made an outstanding contribution to the life of Scotland and the UK. 

Wales: The Daffodil (St. Peter’s leek)

There is much debate about how the daffodil came to be named the national flower of Wales – but the clue could be in the title. The national emblem of Wales was traditionally the leek until the 19th-century and funnily enough the Welsh name for daffodil Cenninen Pedr translates literally as ‘Saint Peter’s Leek’. Some believe this may have led to the confusion.




Others believe it was chosen because of its appearance in early spring, which coincides with St David’s Day on March 1, when the flower is traditionally worn. Whatever the reason, David Lloyd George, the only Welshman to serve as Prime Minister, was a public advocate of the bright and cheery flower as the national emblem. It certainly makes for a prettier buttonhole than its vegetable counterpart.

Ireland: The shamrock (clover)

Not to be confused with the Irish lucky-charm symbolised by the four-leaf clover, the three-leaf shamrock is the country’s unofficial national flower. A registered trademark of the Republic of Ireland, it is also (unofficially) regarded as the national flower of Northern Ireland. Technically, a young sprig of white clover that flowers during winter, its distinctive three-leaf foliage is said to have been used by St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit.


The word shamrock itself comes from the Irish word ‘Seamrog’ meaning ‘little clover’ or ‘young clover’. Although by no means a showy flower, clover is becoming an increasingly popular addition to the natural, wildflower meadow bouquets and arrangements that are bang on-trend right now.

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