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The Meaning of Stephanotis

Stephanotis (Stephanotis floribunda) is one of 13 members of a genus that is part of the dogbane or Apocynaceae family, related to common milkweed and butterfly weed. It is an evergreen, vining plant, that can grow to 25 feet tall. Stephanotis is native to Madagascar and noted for its waxy, jasmine-like, white flowers and sweet fragrance. The flowers are tubular, opening out to five distinct lobes and the leaves are dark green and glossy. The plant has several symbolic and cultural meanings.

The Language of Flowers

The language of flowers, a tradition that assigns specific meanings or sentiments to various flowers, had its origins centuries ago in the Middle and Far East. It reached its apogee during the reign of Queen Victoria, who was smitten by the tradition. In the language of flowers, stephanotis signifies "marital bliss."

Names and Name Origins

The word "stephanotis" comes originally from two Greek words, "stephanos", meaning "crown." and "otos", meaning "ear". According to the Missouri Botanical Garden's Kemper Center for Home Gardening, the tubular appearance of the flower's base suggests an ear canal that opens to five crown-like lobes. The species' common names include "bridal veil," "Madagascar jasmine," "wax flower," "Hawaiian wedding flower" and "pua male" (Hawaiian).

Species Confusion

The common name, "Madagascar jasmine" is confusing, as Stephanotis floribunda is not related to true jasmine (Jasminum officinale), which is a member of the olive or Olaceae family. The confusion originated because the appearance and scents of stephanotis and true jasmine are similar enough to have given rise to stephanotis' common name.

Bridal Bouquets

Because of its meaning in the "language of flowers," its fragrance and its white flowers, stephanotis is a common component of bridal bouquets. The flowers are also sometimes used for the boutonnieres worn by grooms and groomsmen.

Cultural Requirements

Stephanotis is a tropical plant but it can be grown inside if certain conditions are met. For best flowering, it should be kept free of drafts in a location that remains at about 70 degrees F during the day and about 55 degrees F at night. Relatively high humidity--between 40 and 80 percent is ideal, as is bright light and well-drained potting mix. Like many potted tropicals, stephanotis needs frequent feeding, with all-purpose plant food diluted to half strength and administered about once a month. Because of its long stems, stephanotis makes a good subject for either hanging baskets or trellises.

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