Wildflower Folklore

“You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free”

Tom Petty


If you have been reading my Simply The Best series this past year, you will have noticed lots of wildflower folklore included in each post.  I am a history buff and really enjoy finding out the past history and stories associated with flowers especially wildflowers.  When I started the series, I only had a couple of online resources to utilize, but in my research I saw a reference to a wildflower folklore book.  I was intrigued and soon was able to find a used copy of the book.

I really love this book, and so I thought I would review this treasure as I link in with Holley@Roses and Other Gardening Joys and her monthly Garden Book Review meme that takes place on the 20th of every month.  I plan to use the book even more in the coming year, as I continue with some more flower folklore in a new series, Wildflower Tales.


Wildflower Folklore



Author: Laura C. Martin
Paperback:  256 pages
Publisher: Globe Pequot Pr (February 1993)
Amazon Price: $24.95 (Paperback)







In A Few Words

As the author puts it:

Wildflower Folklore is a collection of biographies-biographies of the most interesting and well-known wildflowers found in the woods and fields.  Many of them are so common they are considered weeds; some are so rare they are classified endangered.

The book is simply divided into the colors of the blooms from blue/violet to orange/red with white, yellow, pink and brown/green.  It is very easy to find the flowers if you know the color of the bloom.  There is also a short glossary and extensive index if you need to find a flower.

Each flower is depicted as a folk art style botanical ink drawing in black and white.  The common name, family, genus and species are listed with a brief description of the flower including the habitat and when it blooms.  This is followed by several paragraphs of folklore about the plant many times including the language of the flower or its meaning.



What I Liked

The short introduction by the author explains the idea of folklore and how it tells us the uses, legends, history and nicknames.  Once you know these stories, Laura says, you will see the personalities of these plants and view them in such a different light.  I couldn’t agree more.  I enjoyed the explanation of how many of the plant names came from the physical characteristics of the plants and others were based on the doctrine of signatures a theory proposed by a Swiss physician in 1657.  The signatures were based on the part of the body the plant was said to help medicinally.

The author also explained how these flowers were used in nosegays to mask body odor in the 1600s and as a form of communication in the 1700s known as the language of flowers.  I love these meanings.

Some of my favorite meanings of flowers pictured here are:

  • Foam flower or tiarella was presented by Greeks as token of their love
  • Mayapple is said to have a warning that if a woman pulls up its roots, she will soon become pregnant (lucky for me I was over 50 when I pulled some up for a friend)
  • Bloodroot was used by American Indians for red dye
  • Trillium was used by Native Americans as an effective eye medicine
  • Spiderwort or tradescantia is said to gets its name from the fact that the leaves which are twisted  at the joints resemble spider legs
  • Coreopsis or tickseed was used by early pioneers in their mattresses to repel fleas and bedbugs


Not So Much

I find both the folklore of the non-natives in the book just as fascinating as the natives, but I tend to not want to encourage folks to plant some of the interesting non-natives as they have become invasive and can actually take over some areas forcing out the native plants needed by wildlife.

Thistle is one such plant.  It has taken over parts of my meadow as is not a native here in the US.  But many critters like thistle especially birds.  It is also the national emblem of the Scots who adore this special flower.  So even the plants that are not native to the US, are native somewhere in the world and have a wonderful folklore to explore.  So this book I think would be interesting to many folks around the world.


Final Thoughts

I think it is especially important for us to know the history and stories behind our plants especially the native wildflowers.  Learning their stories may earn them more respect and perhaps folks will appreciate them enough to plant them.  I have to agree with the author that keeping our history alive through these beauties is essential for our heritage so we will want to pass along these stories and flowers to our children.

Laura C. Martin has many other plant folklore books that I have recently purchased.  I can’t wait to start losing myself in them, and sharing some more flower stories.


No matter how chaotic it is, wildflowers will still spring up in the middle of nowhere.  ~Sheryl Crow


**All wildflowers pictured here are from my garden.  Their names can be found by holding your cursor over the picture.


Come Join Us:

Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time.  I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether winter or summer or something else.  Share your traditions, holidays and celebrations in pictures and words.

And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of autumn here in the North and spring in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.

The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the solstice (around the 21st of December).  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the solstice to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page (which I still have to create).  The badges here can be used in your post.   So won’t you join in the celebration!!


Next up on the blog:     On Friday I will reveal all the Seasonal Celebrations.  I hope you will join me.  Then on Monday I will have a special Holiday post.  Wednesday will the last installment of Simply The Best for this year as I highlight a final native plant.

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my current post now.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2012.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

28 Replies to “Wildflower Folklore”

  1. It sounds like a great book. I went to a few talks on the uses medicinal uses of wildflowers are found them fascinating, so learning more is always something I like to do.

    1. Donna she has a whole series of books some you have to find used that are equally fascinating regarding trees, shrubs, other flowers and wildlife.

    1. I know they are both so amazing and I am like a kid in a candy store when the wildflowers bloom…I really adore them more than any other flowers and wait anxiously to see them poke out and bloom.

  2. I need to learn more about wildflowers. As you know, I mostly have roses (and some other flowers) in my garden, but I think I would love and appreciate wildflowers more if I knew more about them. So, this would be a good book for me, especially if I implement the meadow I want to put in some day. It struck me as I was reading this post, that perhaps the reason scents of flowers seem not as important to some people these days is because we all bathe regularly! 🙂 Thanks so much for joining in!

    1. This is a must have if you are planting a native wildflower meadow. I also suggest the Meadow book I reviewed, Urban and Suburban Meadows, as a must for anyone deciding to plant a meadow.

  3. The stories and history of plants and plant names have always interested me, so I shall keep my eyes open for this book. Thanks for the nice review Donna. By the way, I love thistles, as long as they are not in my flower beds!

    1. I agree Cathy about thistles. You might also look for her Garden Flower Folklore book. I may review it too as it has more than just the flowers and folklore.

  4. You mention some of my favorite natives that grow in the woods here. That sounds like a wonderful book, Donna. I love to find out the history of specific plants–especially native ones!

  5. Hi Donna, I have another book by this same author. It deals with planting a wildflower meadow. This book sounds enchanting. I love how little flowers keep seeding and regrowing every year. Great post.

    1. Pam how have you been. You will love this book and her Garden Flower Folklore book too. Both are a must for an English Gardener 🙂 Wishing you a most wonderful Christmas and New Year.

    1. It is not native here in the US at least no the the thistle I was referencing..it is amazing that many wildflowers are not native.

    1. I love your new tradition…maybe you can take some pictures and do a post for next year’s Seasonal Celebration at this time!

      Of course we have another one coming up in March 🙂

  6. The history of the naming of plants is fascinating as is the stories we have given to them. Thanks for sharing this book with us. Christina

    1. I agree Christina. That is why I purchased many more of her books as the stories and info in each are a bit different and so fascinating.

  7. I enjoy the folklore that goes with the plants in my garden. My dwarf myrtle (myrtus commuinis ‘compacta’)
    has an intersting history, purported to be the sacred herb of Aphrodite. I always enjoy telling its story to visitors to my garden. I think I would enjoy reading Wildflower Folklore, too. Thank you for reviewing the book!

  8. Oh I enjoyed this post. I love folklore so I will have to add this book to my wish list. Thank you for linking in with Nature Notes this week Donna…Michelle

    1. Thank you Michelle for finding me and connecting…and thank you for showing me your wonderful meme…keeping you in my heart for 2013!!

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