What is a Hedera Punctuation Mark and What Does it Do?

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Many obscure punctuation marks have fallen out of use through the years. Some were originally decorative in nature when texts had to be hand-copied. Others came into use when typographers became creative in setting print. 

With the advances in technology, many have fallen into what is called the ”punctuation graveyard.” These are rarely used outside of a knowledgeable writer’s creation. 

The hedera is one such mark, and although this highly decorative punctuation is no longer used except in a creative sense, it is worth understanding its original use. 

What is a Hedera Punctuation Mark?

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The hedera (❦) is a punctuation mark that has its roots in early Latin and Greek texts. It is a decorative mark that looks like a floral heart-shaped ivy leaf and was originally used to signify breaks between paragraphs. It can be used as a horizontal variant (❦) or as its vertical variant (❧) without changing its meaning. 

Because of its decorative appearance, it began to be replaced with easier-to-type glyphs such as the asterisk and the pilcrow. Today it is rarely used and often seen in decorative or stylistic situations as a bullet point mark. 

Hedera literally means ivy in Latin, describing its shape and floral look. It also is known as a fleuron, derived from the French word floron, which means flower. 

History of the Hedera

As mentioned above, the original punctuation mark hedera symbol is an ancient one that the Greeks used to divide long paragraphs. Its decorative scrolls and floral appearance complemented the very graphic nature of the Greek alphabet and Latin language. 

What is a Hedera Used for?

Even in ancient times, the hedera was adapted as a decorative mark to fill in white space and serve as a bullet point due to its popular stylistic design. The practice of illustrating each page and filling the margins with scrolls and flowers provided easy adaptation across languages as well. 

The English began to use it in the mid-15th Century both as its original purpose as well as a decorative glyph. 

Modern writers, printers, and typographers use a line break, pilcrows, and asterisks to indicate a new paragraph when drafting text. But, the hedera occasionally makes an appearance, is considered a horticulture dingbat, and can be found under most special characters and symbols listed as a floral scroll or ivy.  

Hedera Ngram
Hedera Usage In English

Let’s Review

Although the hedera punctuation mark has been around for thousands of years, it has more or less fallen into obscurity due to more modern punctuation practices. Originally used to signify breaks between long blocks of texts, it became popular as a part of the decorative works added to hand-copied material before the invention of the printing press.