According to ancient Greek mythology, the protea flower was named after Proteus, the son of Poseidon. He had the power of prophecy, with knowledge of all things past, present, and future. He could also change his shape at will. The flower was named for this ability because it has an astounding variety of sizes, shapes, and colors akin to the power of transformation.
This flower is the perfect tattoo if you value clean, classical lines, the beauty of flowers, and symbolism associated with foreknowledge and transformation.
This article outlines the history of the protea tattoo and lists all its possible meanings. You will also read about the flower itself and the most popular ways the tattoo is inked on the body.
What is the Protea Flower?
It is a genus of flowering plant (Protea) that is native to South Africa, as well as other countries in the Southern Hemisphere including Australia, New Zealand, and regions of South America.
Thanks to the considerable amount of sweet nectar that it produces, it is also known as sugarbushes, or suikerbos in the Afrikaans language of South Africa.
There are over 1,500 species of this type of plant, ranging from small shrubs to tall trees. Many of them have what is commonly thought to be the ‘typical’ protea flower: a massive flower head of between 6 – 12 inches (15 – 30 centimeters) with long, silky-haired petals and green, ovoid leaves.
The flower grows in many colors including pink, red, white, yellow, orange, green, and even purple and dark blue.
The most recognizable species is the ‘King Protea’, which has been the national flower of South Africa since 1976. It is celebrated for its massive size (up to 12 inches and 30 centimeters in diameter), gorgeous red and pink varieties and with a delicate creamy center.
The History of the Protea Tattoo
Flowers have long been seen as symbols of beauty, love, and sympathy and for these reasons, they have always been popular tattoos.
Protea tattoos grew in regard during the 20th century, thanks largely to the rise of women getting tattoos. Traditionally, women have been more likely to get floral tattoos because they have feminine connotations. However, today there are a growing number of men who choose to get floral tattoos as well.
What Does Protea Tattoo Symbolize?
Floriography, or the language of flowers, is a practice where ideas and feelings are communicated through the arrangement of flowers, each of which has specific meanings.
In floriography, the protea symbolizes diversity, change, and transformation. This is thanks largely to the flower’s variety of types, colors, and species and its link to the Greek legend of Proteus, who had the power of transformation.
It is also associated with the following meanings:
Longevity and Hardiness
The flower belongs to one of the oldest families on earth, with some species known to have lived over 300 million years ago! With today’s versions having long and thick stems and a hardy demeanor to survive in difficult conditions, they are excellent symbols of both longevity and hardiness.
People may choose this type of flower tattoo because they have a special connection to South Africa, where the King Protea is the national flower. But with native versions found throughout the southern hemisphere, they are great symbols for those places as well.
Proteus, the Greek god for which the flower is named, had the power to see all, including the past, present, and future. This means that he had the power of divination, or the ability to predict the future. Divination is both an immense power and a dangerous ability, so it has both positive and negative connotations.
If you give these flowers as a gift, you are imbuing the receiver with courage, specifically the ability to overcome obstacles and find the power of individuals to make a positive change in the world.
What Do the Colours of Protea Flowers Symbolize?
Proteas are renowned for their dazzling variety of colors, each of which has the following specific meanings:
White proteas represent honesty, purity, innocence, integrity, trust, and sincerity. The characteristics of duplicity and guile are specifically rejected.
In old French Huguenot tradition, if a man gave a woman a white protea, he was proposing to her. If you saw a man wearing one on his lapel, this meant that he was engaged to be married.
Red is usually a symbol of romantic love, passion, and romance, and the red protea flower is no different.
Yellow and Orange
Both flower colors represent the joyful love of life, happiness, and spontaneity. Yellow symbolizes compassion, honesty, trust, and friendship, while orange represents delight, cheerfulness, and an elevated state of being.
Green flowers, including the protea, represent harmony, abundance, and good luck.
Pink proteas represent motherly love, femininity, and the innocence of first love.
With connections to royalty and spirituality, purple proteas represent grace, mystery, royalty, and class.
How Do People Usually Get a Protea Tattoo?
Asymmetrical flowers like proteas are great along the central portion of your body, including your neck, back, chest, and stomach, where they can shine as the most prominent image.
These flowers have a compact, ovoid flower and long stem, which fits well on your longer limbs, including the upper arms and lower legs.
Flowers are complicated organisms and it can be challenging for tattoo artists to show off the beautiful and fine botanical details. For some, the best way is to have a black and white line drawing, with a minimum of shading.
However, for others, the flowers’ beauty comes from their glorious array of colors. They are inked with bold, beautiful designs and vivid shading.
So, is This Tattoo Right for You?
Spring is in the air, and a floral tattoo is a great way to celebrate the beauty of life, renewal, and rebirth. Protea tattoos in particular also represent transformation, diversity, and longevity. If you have a favorite color, its color symbolism is also something to consider.
This flower is imbued with meaning and there is no doubt that you can find something to suit you, your personality, and where you want your next tattoo to go.