Everything You Need to Know About Bitterroot Flower Meaning

The bitterroot flower is a perennial plant that has eye-catching colors. They range from dazzling creamy white to deep rosy pink. Many may have seen bitterroot flowers plenty of times, but only a few know their meanings or what they represent.

The bitterroot flower has various connotations; each has its reason and origin. However, the most common is “brought back to life.”

In today’s article, I’ll share various meanings of bitterroot flowers. Moreover, I’ll explain how they came into being by looking at this flower’s rich background.

1.   Brought Back to Life

The translation “brought back to life” emerged after the plant’s scientific name “Lewisia rediviva” was coined.

It originated when interpreter George Drouillard had an encounter with a Native American tribe. The tribal people left him a woven bag containing dried roots which he brought to the attention of Meriwether Lewis—the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

As a plant collector, the dried roots piqued Lewis’ interest. He went to Traveler’s Rest Creek to gather live plants of these dried roots. Afterward, Lewis handed the plants to a German-American botanist named Frederick Pursh.

Pursh dried the plant and put it in a herbarium for research purposes. It stayed there for a couple of years until it was retrieved and replanted. As it turned out, the plant was able to produce a fresh set of leaves.

In honor of Meriwether Lewis, Pursh named the new genus Lewisii. He then added the term rediviva, which means “reviving from a dry state.” Since then, people refer to it as the flower “brought back to life,” because of its one-of-a-kind ability.

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2.   Resurrection Flower

While a flower “brought back to life” and “resurrection flower” share the same meaning, the people who coined them have different reasons.

Needless to say, water plays a vital role in growing and keeping plants healthy. Most full-grown plants could stay in top shape for a week without water, while others may survive for a few months.

That’s what separates bitterroot flowers from most plants. They stay alive without water for more than a year. They may look lifeless during drought seasons. Yet, you can expect them to grow beautiful and vibrant leaves when the rain comes—hence the monicker, resurrection flower.

Like other succulent plants, bitterroots could take and store water during wet seasons. When drought comes, they tap into their reserves to survive.

Additionally, their resurrection comes in stages. First, they’ll produce leaves and then flower buds. When the buds start to mature, you’ll see their leaves begin to deteriorate. That’s why you’ll seldom see these plants with both flowers and leaves at the same time.

Bitterroot Flower in mountain

3.   Honor and Respect

There are various reasons why states choose flowers as their symbol. For one, the flower is native to the place. Some states use it to represent their values and ideals.

In 1893, Montana adopted the bitterroot flower as a state symbol. Not only is this flower abundant in the region, but it also has a lot of historical significance.

Looking at the history books, this state has a rich Indian heritage. For many years, Montana was home to many Native American tribes. The roots of this flower were an important part of their diet. Indian women dug them in quantity during spring. They boil the roots and mix them with meat and berries.

On the other hand, some tribes prepared bitterroots by cooking them with sugar, while some mixed them with salt. Other Indian tribes even believed that consuming these roots gives them the power to overcome stronger adversaries.

These show how Native Americans valued this plant so much. Making its flower a state symbol demonstrates Montanans’ respect for their ancestors.

4.   Sadness and Hope

The indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, known as Salish, have a different meaning for bitterroot flowers. For them, it represents sadness and hope.

Food security was highly important for these people. During the early times, they would migrate to places where they could gather and hunt for food. In spring and summer, they would look for vegetables, roots, and fruits and hunt for meat during fall.

Legend has it that bitterroot flowers came into being because of the sorrow an old Salish woman felt for her starving children. The sun heard her cries as she sang a death song on the bank of the Red Willow River.

The sun sent her a spirit bird to assure her that her tears will give birth to flowers springing from roots as bitter as her sadness. As it happened, these roots provided food for her children, turning her sadness into joy.

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What Is Bitterroot Good For?

The bitterroot plant offers several health benefits. For one, it reduces cardiovascular stress and improves blood circulation. Likewise, it eliminates muscle soreness and offers anti-inflammatory effects.

Why Is It Called Bitterroot?

It’s because of the root’s biting and acrid flavor that its discoverers called this plant bitterroot.

That’s why Native Americans stored roots for a year before consumption to reduce their bitterness.

What Are Other Names for Bitterroot?

Apart from its scientific name Lewesia rediviva, the bitterroot is also called desert rose, rock rose, sand rose, spatlum, and spitlum.

What Does Bitterroot Look Like?

The bitterroot has colors that range from creamy white to deep pink. Its stem measures between one to three centimeters which you’d often see without leaves. Lastly, its flower has six to nine oval-shaped sepals that form a rosette.

Bitterroot Flowers

Final Thoughts

So there it is—the different meanings of the bitterroot flower.

This article shows that even flowers could teach us things we can use in life. Like bitterroot flowers, we can also bring life to a dreary situation. We saw it when this plant began producing fresh leaves after staying in a herbarium for a long time.

Likewise, this post teaches us to be grateful for our heritage by giving it its due honor and respect. Grateful people travel far. Lastly, we learned that sorrow isn’t forever. That setback we face today sets us up to enjoy greater things in the future.