Sunday, May 5, 2019

New Growth: the Flowers of Spring

Photo by myself, Wildflowers in Highgate Cemetery.
Spring is here. Though I don't live in the countryside, I do live near the edge of town and, as a result, have had the pleasure of seeing the countryside coming back to life. Bare branches are now lush with bright green leaves and delicate blossom. Crops are growing in the fields. Wild flowers grow wherever they please, turning barren and muddy ground into a stunning bouquet. After the cold beauty of winter, it's a refreshing change and one of my favourite seasons. But it's not just rich with new growth, it's rich with folklore. Some of that folklore is as light and pretty as the Spring itself, but some of it is very dark indeed. Which of your favourite flowers are more dangerous than you think? Which ones will bring you luck, which ones will bring you sorrow? Read on to find out, with my Top Five favourite Spring flowers.

A word of warning: While I do mention which plants are edible in this post, I also go over which ones are not. NEVER, EVER eat any foraged plants unless you are 100% sure that what you have picked is the correct and edible plant! Be careful.

One of the most famous Spring blooms, a bunch of these beautiful, yellow flowers could brighten anyone's mood. Bought to England by the Romans, they're quite hardy and can grow almost anywhere. If you spot the first Daffodil of Spring, before anyone else in your household, you'll have good luck for the rest of the year. A bunch of them as a gift brings good luck to the person who receives them, while a single flower given brings bad luck. 
Eating them brings bad luck too, as all parts of this pretty flower are poisonous. Symptoms include nausea, stomach pain, sickness and diarrhea, so keep them away from young children and pets.

These beauties came to Europe from Turkey, and it wouldn't be spring without them or their heavy scent. Despite this, the story behind them is a gruesome one. In Greek myth, Hyacinthus was a young and beautiful mortal. The problem is that being young and beautiful in Greek mythology usually ends up with you being harrassed by some God or Goddess, and poor Hyacinthus found himself adored by not one God but two; Apollo the Sun God and Zephyrus, God of the Western Wind. Hyacinthus seemed to favour Apollo and Zephyrus was not happy. Normally the gentlest out of the winds, Zephyrus decided if he couldn't have the young man then nobody could. He waited til the two lovers were playing discus and, as the Sun God made his throw, used the Western Wind to blow the heavy disc off course. The discus hit Zephyrus in the head, a fatal blow. Heartbroken, Apollo immortalized the boy by causing Hyacinth flowers to bloom from his blood, the marks on the flowers petals are caused by his tears of grief.
Hyacinths are toxic and not edible.

As Fairy flowers go, these little flowers are quite useful. Primroses are said to mark the hidden doorways to the Fae Lands and can even be used as the key to enter, if you are brave enough. This might be handy if some elf has spirited away a loved one and you need to go on an epic quest to save them. Upon discovering a fairy door, you can open it by touching it with a primrose. Also, since Fairies are said to be so fond of the flowers, a posey of them on your doorstep will encourage them to bless your home and eating the flowers will allow you to see them. 
Yes, primroses are edible and make a tasty and visually appealing addition to a spring salad. They are meant to taste quite fresh, like lettuce. 

Covering forrest floors in a delicate carpet of blue, these are fairy flowers and, pretty as they are, tend to be on the darker side of Folklore. Because of their links to the other worldly, it's considered unlucky to walk through patches of them, or pick them and bring them inside your home, as this will anger the Fairy Folk. If you wander into a ring of them or hear their dainty bells ringing, it's even worse; you will end up bewitched by the Fae, and either be taken to the Fairy Realm or die shortly after. Children left in a Bluebell wood are likely to be lured away to the Fairy world, never to be seen again. If you are extra unlucky then you might find a vile changeling left in place of the child.
These beauties spread everywhere they can, and are an indicator of ancient woodland or hedgerows. A relation to the Hyacinth, they are also not edible and are quite toxic if ingested. So don't.

The Hawthorn will always be my favourite spring bloom. I have fond memories of night time car rides, on the way home from my Aunt and Uncle's as a child, the window down to let in the bewitching scent as the blossoms virtually glowed in the moonlight. Flowering in May, these tough trees can grow in the harshest, most barren and occasionally unexpected places. It's no wonder that in folklore they are considered to be fairy forts or meeting places, resulting in old roads changing course to avoid bothering them or lone trees growing untouched in farmers fields. Nobody wants to risk angering the fae folk. Their branches and blossom was traditionally used as part of May Day celebrations, as wreaths or garlands outside of the house. Inside of the house was a completely different story, since it was considered incredibly bad luck to bring the blossoms inside, as death would soon follow and who knows whom it would come for. This is probably linked to the medieval belief that the blossom smelt like death and the plague.
 It's younger leaves are edible, referred to by the old name as Bread and Cheese, these can be eaten (traditionally) straight from the branches or as part of a salad. It's blossom can be used for tonics or teas to treat heart issues and poor circulation. The berries (or Haws) can be used in jams or wines, they can be eaten raw but could cause cause stomach ache.

Photo by myself, Hawthorn and Blossom.

I hope you've enjoyed this short introduction to England's Spring flowers. My apologies if you haven't seen your favourite one included in this list, it's a personal Top Five rather than a general one. Have any interesting Folklore that's been left out of this post? I always love to hear new Folklore! Post it on Twitter and link me into your Tweet, or comment on this Blog's announcement post on my Instagram.


  1. Love hearing the folklore behind these flowers! I always thought you weren't supposed to pick bluebells because they were endangered so it's intriguing to hear of folklore against picking them too!

    1. Sadly very true about the endangered part, but they're slowly making a comeback. I loved discovering the folklore behind them too. They seem such pretty, inoffensive flowers, I love it when folklore takes a dark twist.

  2. I miss spring flowers! Where I live now doesn't get many flowers blooming because it's too hot but wildflowers are absolutely beautiful.

    1. I'm really sorry to hear that. Is it possible you could grow some in pots, with plenty of water?