Dianthus caryophyllus

"Carnation" redirects here. For other uses, see Carnation (disambiguation).
Dianthus caryophyllus
This is a carnation that is commonly found in bouquets.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Dianthus
Species: D. caryophyllus
Binomial name
Dianthus caryophyllus

Dianthus caryophyllus, carnation or clove pink, is a species of Dianthus. It is probably native to the Mediterranean region but its exact range is unknown due to extensive cultivation for the last 2,000 years.[1][2][3][4]

It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 80 cm tall. The leaves are glaucous greyish green to blue-green, slender, up to 15 cm long. The flowers are produced singly or up to five together in a cyme; they are 3–5 cm diameter, and sweetly scented; the original natural flower colour is bright pinkish-purple, but cultivars of other colours, including red, white, yellow and green, have been developed.[4][5]

Some fragrance-less carnation cultivars are often used as boutonnieres for men.

Cultivation and uses

Growing carnations

Carnations require well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil, and full sun. Numerous cultivars have been selected for garden planting.[4] Typical examples include 'Gina Porto', 'Helen', 'Laced Romeo', and 'Red Rocket'.

Colombia is the largest carnation producer in the world.



A carnation cultivar
Flower buds

Traditional meanings

For the most part, carnations express love, fascination, and distinction, though there are many variations dependent on colour.

The formal name for carnation, dianthus, comes from Greek for "heavenly flower",[8] or the flower of Jove.[9]

Mural commemorating the Portuguese Carnation Revolution

Holidays and events

Carnations are often worn on special occasions, especially Mother's Day and weddings. In 1907, Anna Jarvis chose a carnation as the emblem of Mother's Day because it was her mother's favourite flower.[10] This tradition is now observed in the United States and Canada on the second Sunday in May. Ann Jarvis chose the white carnation because she wanted to represent the purity of a mother's love.[11][12] This meaning has evolved over time, and now a red carnation may be worn if one's mother is alive, and a white one if she has died.[13]

In Korea, carnations express admiration, love and gratitude. Red and pink carnations are worn on Parents Day (Korea does not separate Mother's Day or Father's Day, but has Parents Day on 8 May). Sometimes, parents wear a corsage of carnation(s) on their left chest on Parents Day. Carnations are also worn on Teachers Day (15 May).

Red carnations are worn on May Day as a symbol of socialism and the labour movement in some countries, such as Austria, Italy,[14] and successor countries of the former Yugoslavia. The red carnation is also the symbol of the Portuguese Carnation Revolution.

Green carnations are for St. Patrick's Day and were famously worn by the Irish writer Oscar Wilde. The green carnation thence became a symbol of homosexuality in the early 20th century, especially through the book The Green Carnation and Noël Coward's song, "We All Wear a Green Carnation" in his operetta, Bitter Sweet.

In Poland, in times of People's Republic of Poland, carnations were traditionally given to women on the widely celebrated Women's Day, together with commodities that were difficult to obtain due to the economic hardships faced by the country's communist system, such as tights, towels, soap and coffee.

At the University of Oxford, carnations are traditionally worn to all examinations; white for the first exam, pink for exams in between, and red for the last exam. One story explaining this tradition relates that initially a white carnation was kept in a red inkpot between exams, so by the last exam it was fully red; the story is thought to originate in the late 1990s.[15]

Carnations are the traditional first wedding anniversary flower.[16]

Symbols of territorial entities and organizations

Carnation is the national flower of Spain, Monaco, and Slovenia, and the provincial flower of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands. The state flower of Ohio is a scarlet carnation, which was introduced to the state by Levi L. Lamborn. The choice was made to honor William McKinley, Ohio Governor and U.S. President, who was assassinated in 1901, and regularly wore a scarlet carnation on his lapel.[17]



Carnations do not naturally produce the pigment delphinidin, thus a blue carnation cannot occur by natural selection or be created by traditional plant breeding. It shares this characteristic with other widely sold flowers like roses, lilies, tulips, chrysanthemums and gerberas.

Around 1996 a company, Florigene, used genetic engineering to extract certain genes from petunia and snapdragon flowers to produce a blue-mauve carnation, which was commercialized as Moondust. In 1998 a violet carnation called Moonshadow was commercialized.[18] As of 2004 three additional blue-violet/purple varieties have been commercialized.[19]


Peter Binoit - Still life with carnations, 1618

Carnations were mentioned in Greek literature 2,000 years ago. "Dianthus" was coined by Greek botanist Theophrastus, and is derived from the Greek words for divine ("dios") and flower ("anthos").[20] 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. 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.

Although originally applied to the species Dianthus caryophyllus, the name Carnation is also often applied to some of the other species of Dianthus, and more particularly to garden hybrids between D. caryophyllus and other species in the genus.

See also


  1. Med-Checklist: Dianthus caryophyllus
  2. Flora Europaea: Dianthus caryophyllus
  3. Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
  4. 1 2 3 Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  5. Flora of NW Europe: Dianthus caryophyllus
  6. Anthony S. Mercatante (1976), The magic garden: the myth and folklore of flowers, plants, trees, and herbs, Harper & Row, p. 9, ISBN 0-06-065562-3
  7. "The legend of the carnation", Library notes, Alabama Public Library Service, 1965, p. 6
  8. "dianthus". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Online. 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  9. "Care Information for Standard Carnation". Calyx Flowers Floral Library. Calyx & Corolla, Inc. 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  10. Leigh Eric Schmidt (1997). Princeton University Press, ed. Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (reprint, illustrated ed.). p. 260. ISBN 0-691-01721-2.
  11. Louisa Taylor, Canwest News Service (11 May 2008). "Mother's Day creator likely 'spinning in her grave'". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  12. "Mother's Day reaches 100th anniversary, The woman who lobbied for this day would berate you for buying a card". MSNBC. Associated Press. 11 May 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  13. "Annie's "Mother's Day" History Page". Retrieved 26 June 2008.
  14. Keith Flett (2002). "May Day". Socialist Review. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  15. "Why do students at Oxford University wear carnations to exams". Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  16. Wedding anniversary#Flower gifts
  17. "Lawriter - ORC - 5.02 State flower". Codes.ohio.gov. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  18. Phys.Org website. 4 April 2005 Plant gene replacement results in the world's only blue rose
  19. "GM Carnations in Australia. A Resource Guide" (PDF). Agrifood Awareness Australia. November 2004.
  20. "What in Carnation?", Wall Street Journal, Off Duty Section, 23–24 October 2010, p.D1
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