Begonia Flower History and Uses

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The Begonia flower history is a fascinating one. From its legend and uses in ancient China during the Song Dynasty to the its cultivation and name during the colonial era.

In this blog lets explore the symbolic meaning of the begonia plant, its history, legends and uses.

What does begonia symbolise?

The Begonia flower symbolises beware, deformed, fanciful nature, send a warning, balance and goodness. The possible powers are psychic ability and heightened awareness.

Begonia Flower Legend

In China the Begonia is called Qiu Haitang. There is a story written during the Song dynasty that described why it was given this name.

There was once a woman who missed her husband. When the woman wouldn’t see her husband often she would weep at the northern wall.

Flowers would appear where she had shed tears. The petals of the flower had the woman’s flushed cheeks colour.

The flower would blossom in autumn and called the broken hearted flower or Spring in August.

Begonia flower symbolic meaning

Begonia Plant History

The description of Begonias exist in China as early as the 14th century. While in the mid 16th century Spanish priests would discover native begonias in Mexico.

The name Begonia comes from Michel Begon a governor intendant of Haiti. In 1690 the Franciscan monk Charles Plumier had named 6 previously unidentified plant after him since they had a similar interest in botany.

He was also motivated by the fact the Michel Begon had recommended him to King Louis XIV of France for the position of plant collector in the French Caribbean.

In 1821, a wild Brazilian begonia made it way into Berlin’s Botanical Gardens with other plants. Then later in that century it would hybridise into wax begonias.

Begonia flower medicinal uses

The Begonia may have gained more popularity due to its medicinal uses rather than its aesthetic.

Begonia Grandis is still used today as herbal medicine in its native land. The astrigent property of the plant is used to clean wounds, treat a variety of diseases and reduce swelling.

It was believed that since the plant grew in shady places that its nature must have a cooling effect too. Therefore, it was recommended against fevers.

The juice from the plant also had cosmetic application when combined with honey. Ringworm and other parasitic diseases of the skin was treated with the Begonia.

It was discovered that the root of the plant had similar properties to rhubarb and therefore, it would be used as a substitute.

Begonia flowers

Are Begonia flower edible?

In Southern China there is a popular bitter tasting tea made from Begonia Fimbristipula. Those tea can even be purchased sometimes in the Asia markets in the United States.

It was also eaten across China as a vegetable green or drunk as a herbal tea. The varieties of Begonia Semperflorens and Begonia Elatior have fleshy leaves and flowers. They are edible both raw and cooked, however, they have a slightly bitter taste.

Today you can make a spread with the Begonia flower by chopping begonia petals mixing it with cream cheese, strawberry and some jam.

In Paraguay the variety of Begonia Cucullata are eaten fried or in soups or even salads. The sap from the plant is used to treat sore throats.

What month do Begonias flower

The Begonia flower blooms around the months of June or July, this depends on when the tubers have started. They last until the first frost.

Begonia flower

If you enjoyed this blog then don’t miss out on our other Spring flowers blogs.


Lim, T. K. (2013). Edible medicinal and non-medicinal plants: Volume 7, flowers (2014th ed.). Springer.

Lowe, E. J., Howard, W., Fawcett, B., & Lydon, A. F. (1866). Beautiful Leaved Plants: Being a Description of the Most Beautiful Leaved Plants in Cultivation in this Country, to which is Added an Extended Catalogue. Groombridge.

Peng, C. I. (2021). All for love: Endless trekking in search of Begonia. Amy Peng.

Shih-Chen, L. (2003). Chinese medicinal herbs: A modern edition of a classic sixteenth-century manual. Dover Publications.

Wyman, D. (1987). Wyman’s Gardening Encyclopedia (2nd ed.). Prentice Hall & IBD.

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