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Japanese Death Flower: Mysterious Red Spider Lily

Japanese Death Flower: Mysterious Red Spider Lily

Today we will talk about the Japanese death flower. I’m sure you read about this flower at least once before. But today we will focus on its symbolism, Japanese flower meaning, spiritual meaning, and superstitions.

Once we’re done with this article, you’ll know all about the Japanese death flower. You will see why Japanese people don’t like its symbolism so much or have it around much.

Next time you’re reading about the main character in a Japanese book and you see a mention of a red spider lily, you’ll know how to interpret that text.

Let’s learn more about the symbolism of the red flowers with long stamens below.

Red Spider Lily Characteristics

  • Family: Amaryllis family/Amaryllidaceae family
  • Scientific name: Lycoris radiata
  • Common names: death flower, ghost flower, higanbana flower, the flower of death, the corpse flower, abandoned child flower, red flowers, final goodbye flower
  • Blooming season: autumn equinox, early fall season, sometimes bloom in late summer
  • Leaf shape: strap-shaped leaves
  • Toxic/Non-Toxic: poisonous
  • Wildlife: wild animals such as deer, hummingbirds, bees, and other wild animals
  • Native habitat: Japan, China, and some parts of Europe, flowers grow in shady forests, O-higan shore other shore, and rice paddies/rice fields
  • Use: decor in Buddhist temples, for holidays, in culture and art, planted in the garden for as a beautiful flower for a bouquet

What Is A Japanese Death Flower?

Japanese death flower is a red spider lily flower. Its symbolism doesn’t mean that you’re dead after you find such a flower but has an association with death and everything that leads to it in Japanese culture.

What Flowers Mean Death In Japanese Culture?

In every Buddhist text, you will find spider lilies only as a Japanese death flower. Other flowers don’t have much (dark) use or symbolism in Japanese culture.

Red Spider Lilies Symbolism

The red spider lily has symbolism of death and in Japanese cultures. They’re the flowers that bring bad luck into people’s lives.

To make sure that graves and cemeteries are left alone, people planted this flower on the graves. Since the red spider lily is a poisonous flower, wild animals or any other animals didn’t attack the graves.

However, due to this use, the flower built a reputation as a real death flower and since its use, it’s been used in art and culture as a death flower. All around the world, these plants now are used as a poetry metaphor now, for anime cartoons, movies, etc.

Types of lilies and their meanings: Real meaning of the beauty!

Red Spider Lily Flowers Spiritual Meaning

It is believed that with the appearance of bright buds on the plant, one of the households will be overcome by a dangerous illness or even death.

By understanding why the red spider lily is called the “flower of death”, you will be able to familiarize yourself with so many signs and superstitions associated with this plant. The most famous are the following:

  • If a flower appears in a girl’s house, then her marriage with any man will be short-lived. And her love relationship will be unhappy.
  • The spider lily impregnates the whole house with negative energy. “Sucks up” the positive emotions of its owners, and can even lead them into depression.
  • Red spider lily is able to arouse passion between spouses and generally strengthen the marriage. For this reason, a plant with bright red flowers is located in the bedroom next to the couple’s bed.
  • If a woman takes good care of a red spider lily and chooses the best place for it in the house, then it will soon become very popular among members of the opposite sex.
  • Red spider lily flowers take root perfectly in hospitals because they feed on the negative emotions and experiences of patients.

Red Spider Lily Common Meanings

Although this flower has its own universal meaning, in order to understand why it is so and where it really comes from, we offer you 4 well-known explanations of the symbolism of this flower. Let’s learn 4 more meanings of this flower.

Higanbana meaning

The Japanese name for the red spider lily flower, Higanbana (彼岸花), translates as “flower from the other shore”.

It refers to the Buddhist belief that the soul passes through purgatory after death before reaching ultimate death and tranquility.

Abandoned Child Meaning

The red spider lily is also known around the world as “the flower of the abandoned child.” The name comes from a Japanese legend about a mother who died during childbirth and thus abandoned her child. Her soul turned into a red spider lily. That lily now blooms near the graves of the orphans.


The Japanese name “Manjushage”, derives from Manjushagi-no-kami, the Goddess, who according to a Buddhist text, can make red flowers fall from the sky.

Final Goodbyes

In Asia, the red spider lily is known as the “flower of farewells and last encounters.” It is given to people who are preparing for a long journey.

Red Spider Lily Flower – Legends

From the moment when red spider lilies began to be used for graves, many legends arose about the first real use of this flower. Namely, it is believed that once upon a time, red spider lilies were used as a secret ingredient in poisonous drinks that rich families served to their enemies.

They would be invited to dinner, as a sign of reconciliation and union, but what would happen at dinner would be far from that. With dinner, they would be served homemade wine, which mostly contained drops of the juice of these flowers. Those who came to the Supper of Reconciliation would never leave it because they would be killed by poisoned drinks.

Other legends related to the red spider lilies and flowers are associated with battlefields. It is believed that these flowers originated on the famous battlefields of Japan throughout the country’s history of warfare. Where the most blood was shed, the largest number of these plants sprouted, and where there was less blood and conflict, there are almost no flowers in those fields.

Red Spider Lily Blooms -Symbolism And Use In Anime

The saddest use of the red spider lily in anime is in episode 9 of the series, Dororo, by Osamu Tezuka. That anime is about the mysterious (main) character Hyakkimaru and the orphan Dororo. Episode 9 is full of red spider lily symbolism as it finds the little girl Dororo sick.

Later in the episode, he finds red spider lily flowers, which leads to a flashback in the episode. The producer was aware that the common name for the red spider lily flower is the ‘abandoned child flower’ and skillfully used that name in this tragic story.

The last scene is the scene where her mother falls to the ground because she is starving and unable to go on. At that moment they are in a large field of red spider lilies. Surrounded by red spider lily flowers, her mother dies and Dororo becomes an orphan.

FAQ – Japanese Death Flower


Below we bring you more questions about the red spider lily and opposite flowers-white spider lilies. Let’s check this section below.

What Does A Spider Lily Look Like?

The perennial red spider lily flowers before the leaves are fully developed. During its flowering, long flower stalks first, appear.

They produce umbels of 4-6 flowers. Their long stamens visually resemble spider legs, giving the plants their arachnid name. The color of the flower changes over time, changing from dark red to a lighter shade of pink.

Is Red Spider Lily Real Flower?

Although it is often said that the flower is not real, precisely because of its symbolism, the flower is very real. Its botanical name is Lycoris Radiata and it grows in Asia and Europe.

Are Spider Lilies Bad Luck?

In Japanese culture, Japanese people think that red spider lilies bring bad luck. It is not desirable to have these flowers planted in your garden or growing near your home.

What’s The Japanese Language Meaning Of This Flower?

Even though this flower often called manjushage flower in Japanese means “flower of the heavens”, it is associated with death at the same time in Japanese culture.

The flower of death is in Japanese culture used for Buddhist holidays. Among with lotus sutra, it is one of the most popular flowers for this holiday. They’re blooming exactly this time of the year.

When To Give Red Spider Lily To Someone?

This flower is definitely not a flower for everyday use. If you know its symbolism, and you certainly do now, it is best to give this flower at a funeral and to people who are leaving, i.e. moving somewhere else.

Is It Okay To Touch Red Spider Lilies?

Although it is much worse if you inhale or accidentally, miraculously eat a petal of this flower, touching it is not recommended.

If you do not wash your hands immediately and the “pollen” of the flower remains on your hands, it can cause a rash.

What Is The Symbolism Of White Spider Lily?

Unlike the red spider lily, the white spider lily has the opposite symbolism. White lilies present fertility, innocence, purity, and even love in some cultures.

What Is The Spiritual Meaning Of White Spider Lilies?

It is believed that the person you give white spider lilies to is the person you love and admire. Since their symbolism includes fertility, they’re given to mums in baby showers to increase their chances of having children in the future as well.

Final Thoughts On The Japanese Death Flower

Today we talked about the Japanese death flower and to all of you who didn’t know much, you surely have an enviable amount of knowledge about the red spider lily now.

Even though this flower presents death, we think it’s best to end this article in a happier mode with a quote about lilies by Ben Jonson.

A lily of a day Is fairer far in May, Although it falls and dies that night, It was the plant and flower of light. In small proportions we just beauties see, And in short measures, life may perfect be.

That would be all for today. See you soon with similar articles!

Japanese Death Flower pin