In Tarot, plants are powerful symbols carrying meaning and purpose. They evoke ideas, images and visions.
The following list of plants suggests symbolic meanings, and it is up to the reader how to interpret these meanings in individual readings.
Acorn, see Oak
Sacred fruit of Aphrodite/Venus symbolising sexual desire and fertility. When sliced horizontally, its seeds resemble a pentacle.
In Celtic mythology, the apple tree is a symbol of plenty, for choice and a door into greater mysteries. It is one of the three legendary magical fruits (hazel, apple, oak).
Symbol of love, faith, generosity and gratitude. It can be found on the RWS Lovers card behind the nude female.
The snake in the apple tree links the card with the story of Adam and Eve, suggesting paradise and its forthcoming demise.
Symbol of beauty and ancient wisdom, prosperity and divination. The beech tree is a symbol for the written word; it was once used to make writing tablets.
In Celtic mythology, the beech tree is associated with all gods of wisdom and learning and the human intellect.
The wood and leaves were carried as a talisman to increase creative powers.
Symbol of new beginnings, birth, springtime, young love; renewal and cleansing; new directions and goals. A birch forest appears on the Death card of the Robin Wood deck.
Cornfields symbolise the potential for cultivation, the need for labour, attention and care in order to achieve material success.
A person standing in a cornfield suggests a down-to-earth mentality and a connection with the Earth element or its energy.
The cypress comprises the forest in the background of the Empress in the RWS deck. It is sacred to Venus and Artemis and suggests fertility.
Also sacred to the gods of the underworld, Hades and Pluto, it can represent anything developing in darkness, e.g. the unconscious.
Symbolises continuous giving and support, nurture and stability. See also cypress, ivy, palm, pine.
Symbolises the cycle of life, harvest and new seed. Fertility, nourishment, creative abundance, spiritual maturity.
Found on the Empress card of the RWS deck and in the suit of Pentacles.
Grapes represent inspiration and truth (as a result from drinking wine, when inhibitions are released).
Also symbolising abundance, fruitfulness and achievement. The vine’s symbolic meaning in the Old Testament is as an emblem of God’s blessing on his chosen people.
Grapes appear on Crowley’s Fool suggesting ‘sweetness of life, intoxication’ (Banzhaf/Theler).
The flower represents the goddess Iris, who was the Greek messenger of the gods. She is also associated with the rainbow, which represents the pathway by which she travelled.
Both the flower and the rainbow symbolise her qualities as a divine messenger. The flower can be found on the RWS Temperance card.
Entwining ivy is a symbol of romantic desolation; it was associated with death in the 18th century Gothic revival and a symbol of melancholy.
Ivy was an essential complement to any ruined building. Its entwining habit represents the movement of the stars and planets and the understanding of their influence on the affairs of humankind.
Ivy symbolises the Spirit, search for enlightenment, a warning (Ivy ale was a highly intoxicating medieval drink), binding and restricting, freeing and uniting. It is closely connected with the vine.
A laurel wreath was used as a crown of victory or accomplishment for athletes, poets and musicians in ancient Greece.
It was associated with the Greek god Apollo. The Fool in the RWS deck wears a laurel wreath, which symbolises his victorious spirit.
The charioteer on the Chariot card of the RWS wears a laurel wreath and so does the victorious rider on the Six of Wands.
The white lily symbolises purity, chastity, innocence and also higher spirit. The three-sided fleur-de-lis (triple lily) is a heraldic symbol of illumination.
Water lilies are the Golden dawn’s elemental symbol for water. They float on the water of the RWS Ace of Cups.
Golden lilies appear on the Emperor card of Crowley’s Thoth deck as an attribute of power.
The lotus blossom represents the four elements: the earth from which the plant grows, the water supporting its stalk, air into which its perfume escapes and the fire of the sun, which provides energy for it to grow.
The lotus represents the soul or psyche rising from the unconscious (the bottom of its watery source) into the clarity of consciousness and enlightenment.
Lotuses feature on all the Cup cards of Crowley’s Thoth Tarot (except the Seven and the Knight) as well as the Empress (the Lotus sceptre, representing feminine creativity and life force) and the Devil (wearing a lotus garland as a sign that the bearer is ‘a child of good’ – Banzhaf/Theler).
Good fortunes, longevity, immortality; also rapid growth and destruction (mushroom cloud). Can also represent restlessness and change (Robin Wood Moon card).
The RWS Empress wears a myrtle wreath, which is associated with female fertility, the forces of nature and also immortality. Myrtle is sacred to Venus. It was a Greek emblem of happiness, often used in marriage and childbirth rituals.
Celtic symbol for protection and strength; sacred tree of Heracles/Hercules and Jupiter/Zeus; sacred tree of Norse god Thor; acorns are symbols of fertility and spiritual growth.
The oak represents courage, endurance and the protective power of faith. In some Tarot decks the Hanged Man hangs from an oak tree.
The qualities of the suit of Pentacles is symbolised by oak leaves.
A sacred tree for many cultures, it is associated with light and enlightenment as the oil was used as a lamp fuel in ancient times.
In Islamic tradition, the olive tree represents the world tree or world axis.
In Judeo-Christian tradition, a dove brought an olive branch to Noah as a message that the flood was over.
The olive tree symbolises peace, fruitfulness, purification and wisdom. A branch appears on the RWS Ace of Swords.
The palm tree, with its solar-like spread of the strong leaves, was associated with victory in Roman times.
Victorious gladiators would be awarded with palm fronds due to the size and evergreen habit, which suggests longevity.
The palm tree and its leaves signify masculinity and assertiveness. A palm branch hangs from the RWS Ace of Swords.
In Greek mythology the pine tree was sacred to Artemis, the moon goddess who presided over childbirth; also associated with gods of wine like Dionysus and Bacchus.
Pine cones were used in fertility rites and the pollen was used in money spells. Pine resin was burned to clear negative energies, which could also be done by scattering pine needles around.
Its height (taller than most other trees) symbolises foresight, objectivity and overview. Also suggests nature, fertility and life force.
Symbolises fertility, new possibilities, ‘new birth’ symbol; creative, receptive and feminine energy. Seen on the veil behind the RWS High Priestess.
Roses symbolise beauty and perfection; they are often associated with the pentagram because of its five-petal structure.
Roses that are clearly depicted with five petals relate to the five senses and the inner five-pointed star of the apple; in horticulture, the rose is linked with the apple, which is also a member of the rose family.
Roses in Tarot decks are mainly red or white. Red signifies passion and desire (not necessarily sexually); white roses can indicate spirit, soul and abstract thought.
A five-pointed white rose can be found on Death’s banner in the RWS deck, signifying the Mystic Rose of life.
Red roses appear on the RWS Nine of Swords as a symbol of the heart and strong emotions. The red roses on Crowley’s Star symbolise love and fertility.
Sunflowers are symbols of devotion and steadfastness, as their flower heads follow the sun during the day. They appear on the RWS Sun and the Queen of Wands.
In the Seven of Cups of Crowley’s Thoth deck, the lotus blossoms, which appear on all other Cup cards of the deck, have turned into tiger lilies, dropping their poisonous nectar into the chalices symbolising ‘deceptive, sinister seduction’ (Banzhaf/Theler).
Wheat represents the entire cycle of nature: death, rebirth, resurrection. It suggests nurturing, abundance and fertility.
Psychologically, wheat tied together symbolises the integration of inner opposites, the conscious and the unconscious.