Udumbara flowers are part of Buddhist legend, and are said to only flower once every 3,000 years. They are considered an “auspicious sign,” particularly in cases where they bloom somewhere significant. Udumbara flowers are most often observed in rather ordinary circumstances, as in 2007 when they were spotted on an oleander bush. But then you have the rare cases, as in 2005 when ten of them were found attached to a gold Bodhisattva statue, when they seem somehow more significant.According to Buddhist scripture, Udumbara flowers indicate “Chakravartin (“He who turns the Wheel”) descending into the world.” They are considered celestial, fragile, delicate, and magical.
The Udumbara is the fig tree, which seems to pose a mystery: how can it produce fruit, without having any visible flowers? As you no doubt learned in early science classes, the flower is the plant’s equivalent of a uterus. Pollination fertilizes the flower, causing a fruit (baby) to grow. A tree which produces fruit without flowers seems almost like a miraculous Virgin Birth!
The truth is that all fig trees flower from inside the fruit itself. Figs are not true fruits, but a collective inflorescence. It’s complicated and kind of inside-out, but it obviously works for the fig tree.
The Buddhist answer to the mystery of the fig tree was to create a legend: the fig tree DOES flower, but it blooms only once every 3,000 years, and it can bloom anywhere in the world. The blossoms of the fig tree also symbolize a very rare occurrence, equivalent to the English phrase “once in a blue moon.”
Posted on June 19, 2015