Wild edible flowers can offer extraordinary flavor, nutrition, and visual “wow” to your meals — or make outrageously delicious sparkling cordials. In this article, we’ll share our favorite wild edible flowers with you — including how to identify and use them!
Before diving into our favorite wild edible flowers, we’ll ask you to read our article, Beginner’s Guide to Foraging: 12 Rules to Follow. Once you do, you’ll know the basic foraging rules you need to follow to avoid eating something dangerous — whether that’s accidentally eating poisonous plants or foraging in places where pesticides or other contaminants are present.
Rule #1 is perhaps the most important of them all: Never eat anything you’re not 100% certain you’ve correctly ID’d AND you’re not 100% certain is edible.
Why eat wild edible flowers?
The world is a giant grocery store full of colorful, flavorful, free food. You just have to learn how to see it.
Edible flowers are one of the most unique foods in nature’s “produce section.” They’re outrageously beautiful, packed full of flavor and nutrients, and can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen.
Across the United States alone, there are likely hundreds — if not thousands — of edible flowers you can forage in the wild, some unique to your specific bioregion.
This article is not intended to provide an exhaustive list of every edible flower you can find in the wild. Rather, it’s intended to highlight a selection of our absolute favorite edible flowers that you can be on the lookout for.
Our top 16 wild edible flowers
This list of edible flowers is ordered based on when the flowers are in season, not our most to least favorite.
1. Viola flowers (Viola odorata)
Wild violas are among the earliest flowers to bloom in our region. Native to Europe and Asia, they’re imports to the US that have naturalized widely. For instance, they grow abundantly in the section of our garden adjacent the forest, even though we never planted them.
Even if you think you’ve never seen a viola before, we guarantee you have. That’s because one type of bred viola is the pansy (Viola × wittrockiana).
Viola leaves and flowers are both edible. Yes, pansies are edible, too. (Pansies are also useful as an insult, whereas calling someone a “viola” is not likely to result in offense.)
Both viola and pansy flowers have a silky texture and mild wintergreen flavor. Viola plants and their flowers are slightly smaller than pansies.
Use viola leaves and flowers in salads or omelettes. The petals can also be candied to use as a garnish on desserts.
If you gather a cup or more of viola flowers, you can also turn them into a delicious sparkling/fermented cordial. (Recipe at bottom of article.)
2. Redbud flowers (Cercis canadensis)
Native to the eastern United States, redbud flowers are one of the earliest flowers out in the spring. They always brighten our spirits and serve as a good visual indicator that morel mushrooms are sure to be fruiting.
Redbud flowers also make very tasty food. The flavor is nuanced: slightly lemony, sweet, with notes of peas (they are in the legume family, after all).
We love tossing handfuls of redbud flowers into a salad made of edible weeds. They also make a beautiful purple sparkling cordial. (Recipe at the end of article.)
3. Wisteria flowers (Wisteria sinensis)
Everyone living east of the Mississippi River likely knows what wisteria looks and smells like. An invasive Asian vining plant in the pea/bean family, the giant clusters of purple or white flowers look like cartoon grapes in the early spring.
All parts of the wisteria plant are poisonous — except for the flowers. To give an indication of their abundance, The Tyrant and I have picked a 5-gallon bucket of wisteria flowers in about 5-10 minutes. The flowers taste like a muted version of how they smell, but with notes of peas. Quite good.
We love making sparkling wisteria flower cordial in the spring. Oddly, despite the purple flower color, wisteria cordial is an electric pink color. Use the flower cordial recipe at the bottom of this article to make your own.
Our first experiment with wisteria wine is currently aging in our basement. Fingers crossed it ages well and we have a good recipe to share with you.
4. Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale)
Mention edible weeds, and most people immediately conjure up an image of dandelions. Some people love them, some people hate them. Those that hate them tend not to know the best and various ways to use their roots, leaves, buds, and flowers.
Pop the unopened flower buds off and use them to make dandelion “capers” (not true capers, but similar taste and texture). If you don’t have enough buds for a full jar, simply keep a jar of brine in your fridge and add your dandelion buds as you find them.
Once the yellow flowers have opened, dandelion wine, dandelion jelly, and dozens of other recipes await. If you “don’t like dandelions,” it might just be you haven’t tried the right recipe yet.
5. Wood sorrel flowers (Oxalis)
There are a few different species of plant that carry the common name “sorrel,” hence the importance of botanical/scientific names:
- Wild sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella),
- Common sorrel, aka garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa),
- Blood sorrel (Rumex sanguineus),
- French sorrel (Rumex scutatus)
- Wood sorrel (Oxalis spp.)
Although all of the plant species listed above have a similar and distinct lemon-like flavor, only wood sorrel (Oxalis) offers beautiful edible flowers. (I grew up chewing on sour Rumex flower stalks, but they’re not much to look at.)
This physical difference in flower structure is by virtue of the fact that wood sorrel/Oxalis is insect-pollinated and must therefore create an attractive visual landing pad and edible treat for pollinators. Conversely, Rumex sorrels are wind-pollinated, and wind is not nearly as discerning as a flying insect in search of pollen and nectar.
Oxalis leaves look very similar to clover, but taste like lemon rather than the grassy taste of clover leaves (which are technically edible but not particularly palatable). We’ve seen a stunning array of Oxalis leaf and flower color. The flowers also have a distinctive lemon flavor, but are sweeter than the leaves owing to their nectaries.
You can use Oxalis flowers and leaves to add beauty and citrus zip to any meal. Use the leaves from Rumex sorrel or Oxalis sorrel to make our lemony-flavored sorrel soup recipe.
6. Wild brassica/mustard flowers (Brassicaceae spp.)
Most of the world’s most valued Brassica plants (kale, broccoli, cabbage, choy, mustard, kohlrabi, etc.) are native to either the Mediterranean region or Asia. Many of these made the trip over the ocean to America with European settlers. A few escaped “captivity” and now grow abundantly as wild plants near open fields, old homesteads, and roadsides.
In the late winter through early spring, you can see some of these escapees blooming away with clusters of bright yellow flowers about 2-3′ high. Once you know what they look like, they’re quite easy to recognize. Then it’s time to add them to your plate.
Wild brassica/mustard flowers have a distinctively sweet mustardy flavor that pops in salads, sandwiches, or virtually any savory dish you can dream up. You can also grow your own by simply letting a few of the brassica plants in your garden mature to flower/go to bolt.
7. Coral honeysuckle flowers (Lonicera sempervirens)
Yes, there are species of honeysuckle that are: a) native to the United States, and b) not invasive (unlike the imported Asian species of honeysuckle).
Coral honeysuckle has a vining growth habit somewhat similar to Japanese honeysuckle, but it doesn’t produce runners or completely take over your landscape.
While we’ve never officially read any trustworthy source noting the edibility of coral honeysuckle flowers, our dear friend Eliza (a master naturalist and master gardener) regularly ate flowers for years from her plant. She is still very much alive.
We also ate her coral honeysuckle flowers years ago and enjoyed them so much that she gave us starts. Those starts are now giant vines growing up our back porch, and we regularly eat the flowers. We’re still very much alive and have never suffered ill effects. We make no claims about the edibility of other parts of the coral honeysuckle plant and suggest you avoid eating them (including the berries).
Harvesting tips: coral honeysuckle flowers seem to taste best harvested in the spring AND in the morning while the nectaries are still full. The flowers can take on a slightly bitter flavor in the summer and/or when harvested later in the day when it’s hot out.
Use coral honeysuckle flowers as a colorful and exotic garnish, in salads, or make them into a vibrant pink/red fermented flower cordial. (See recipe at bottom of article.)
8. Black locust flowers (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Black locust wood was prized by Native Americans and early European settlers alike due to its incredible rot-resistance, strength, and fire heat/efficiency potential (BTUs). Wood posts made from black locust can last for many decades.
This durability is due to the plants incredible hardness and density (Janka hardness of 1,700 pounds). Being in the legume family, black locust is basically a giant bean tree.
That’s not readily apparent from looking at the trees, but you notice it when you eat the edible flowers, which taste almost like sugar peas. Giant clusters of black locust flowers can be harvested from the trees’ low hanging branches in early-mid spring, depending on your location.
Despite the name black locust, the flowers are bright white. We love adding them to salads, omelettes, and more. For best flavor and texture, pick them in the morning while the nectaries are full.
9. Wild roses (Rosa spp.)
You know that wonderfully unique rose smell? What if you could harness that smell in flavor form?
You can. One great way to accomplish this aim: find a patch of wild roses blooming in the spring. They’re usually climbing wild roses taking over thickets or forest edges. The native species we often see here in South Carolina is Rosa carolina.
Harvest the unopened buds or opened flowers and dry them for tea. Or make a sparkling rose flower cordial using the recipe at the bottom of this article.
Want to grow your own edible rose hips/fruit and flowers in your garden? Be sure to read our article How to select and use edible roses.
10. Elderflowers (Sambucus spp.)
Without fail, every time we post something about elderberries or elderflowers on our social media accounts, someone quotes the hilarious Monty Python scene where the Insulting Frenchman says to King Arthur: “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries.”
While elderberries have become all the rage due to several studies showing they help boost your immune system and reduce the severity and duration of viral illnesses (namely flu and cold), elderflowers are amazing in their own right.
We harvest elderflowers from our Sambucus canadensis shrubs/trees (whichever nomenclature you prefer for a 12’+ tall plant) in mid-late spring. We do so by selecting flower clusters from the branches most likely to snap in a summer thunderstorm under the weight of ripening berry clusters. That way, we don’t reduce our prized berry harvest.
Elderflowers impart an indescribably delicious yet subtle flavor. If you’ve ever had the French St. Germain liqueur, you’ve tasted elderflowers. If not, you should.
We make a sparkling/fermented cordial with our elderflowers. Given the popularity of our sparkling elderflower cordial with our extended family, we always make more bottles than we can drink ourselves.
Want to take a deeper dive into elderberries? Read our articles: Complete guide to growing elderberries, How to make elderberry syrup, and How to make sparkling elderflower cordial (or use the flower cordial recipe at the bottom of this article).
11. Daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva)
Daylilies were a food crop in Asia for thousands of years, and were eventually brought to Europe in the 1500s, where they were used as both a landscape plant and food source. Their journey didn’t stop there…
European immigrants brought daylilies to America in the 1600s. Today, they can be found growing wild along roadsides, fields, and old homesteads across most of the United States (except for arid/desert regions).
We should make clear that we’re referencing the original, orange-petaled daylilies. There are now tens of thousands of daylily hybrid cultivars bred for flower color and shape, not edibility. It’s impossible to say whether each one is edible, so stick to the original!
The tender young shoots of daylilies make a great veggie – they taste sweet with a slight onion flavor. Young daylily tubers (best harvested from fall – late winter while the plants are dormant) can be cooked and eaten like crunchy potatoes.
The unopened flower buds are delicious breaded and fried, stir-fried, added to salads, or just munched on-the-spot in your garden. Once the flowers open, the velvet-textured orange petals taste like sweet lettuce and make an excellent addition to salads or as a garnish.
12. Mimosa flowers (Albizia julibrissin)
Although they’re most abundant in the southeastern United States, mimosa trees — an invasive Asian species — can be found all the way west to California. On a family vacation to New York, we were surprised to see the abundance of mimosa trees growing in forests that far north.
Mimosa flowers smell out-of-this-world wonderful and if you approach a tree on a warm, sunny day, it will be buzzing with pollinators. It just so happens that the troll doll-looking pink-and-white flowers produce a flavor that’s every bit as delicious as they smell.
Our mimosa flower cordial is the highest and best use that we know of for these delicious flowers. (See flower cordial recipe at bottom of article.)
13. Gardenia flowers (Gardenia augusta and others)
Gardenias are at the top the list of best smelling flowers. The showy white blooms smell similar to magnolias, but even better.
Well, gardenia flowers are also edible. Use the petals in salads or as a topping.
My mom makes a wonderful gardenia flower cordial that, oddly, tastes like ripe pears. Subtle and utterly delightful! Use the flower cordial recipe at the bottom of this article to make your own.
While you don’t often find gardenias growing in the wild (they’re not native and don’t proliferate aggressively), we love the smell and flavor of gardenia flowers so much that we felt a duty to share them in this list.
14. Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
If you didn’t spend time as a kid pinching and pulling honeysuckle calyxes to extract the droplet of delicious nectar inside, then you missed out and need to make up for this loss during adulthood. True story: when I was nine, I once spent an entire afternoon extracting enough honeysuckle nectar to make an entire glass of the divine liquid.
Honeysuckle falls into the non-native invasive species category, and shouldn’t be intentionally grown. However, any time you encounter it in your outdoor adventures, harvest all the flowers you can.
Rather than pulling out each honeysuckle nectar drop, use a pile of the flowers to make one of the most delicious fermented cordials you’ll ever taste using the instructions at the bottom of this article!
15. Kudzu flowers (Pueraria spp.)
Perhaps the most invasive non-native species in our area, kudzu blankets entire forest edges in the southeast — even covering entire trees.
Native to Asia, it was imported in the US to help control erosion (it does), feed livestock (it does), and provide shade for porches (it can). What people at the time didn’t realize is that the plant would thrive so well here that it would be reclassified as a noxious weed and become known as “the vine that ate the south.”
Kudzu flowers can be harvested by the bucketload in the summer. They have a sweet, bean/pea-like flavor that’s quite nice mixed into salads. The young leaves are also edible and taste like snap beans. Giant kudzu roots are used to make a flour similar to arrowroot flour.
Craftspeople in our area also use the vines to make beautiful baskets and other creations.
16. Turk’s cap flowers (Malvaviscus arboreus)
We munched our first Turk’s cap flowers years back at my mother’s lakehouse garden in Santee, South Carolina — a much warmer growing zone from where we live in Greenville, SC (Zone 7b). We were hooked.
Turk’s caps produce gorgeous showy 2-3″ red flowers that are bursting with nectar flavor. In the hibiscus/mallow family, the flowers never fully open, making them ideal for animals with long tongues or proboscises (hummingbirds and butterflies).
Turk’s caps are native to the Gulf coast region of the southeastern US (Zone 9+), so be on the lookout for these distinctive flowers if you live in that area. We liked these edible flowers so much, that we grow ours in a pot.
The leaves of turk’s cap are also edible as are the small berries they produce.
How to make sparkling flower cordials
In the above list of wild edible flowers, you may have noticed repeated mention of a recipe to make sparkling flower cordial.
We use the same basic recipe to make a fermented cordial with many of the flowers listed. You can tweak the exact ratios to your taste preferences (examples: less sugar if it’s too sweet, more lemon juice or citric acid if you want more tang, etc.).
The number of days you allow the ferment to continue may also vary based on your taste preferences, the specific strains of native yeast on the flowers, room temperature, and other factors.
In short, use this basic recipe as a foundation or starting off point, not a precise rulebook.
Fermented sparkling wild flower cordial
A simple and delicious fast-fermented beverage you can make from different types of edible flowers.
- 1 cup edible flowers This recipe works best for sweet, colorful flowers like those specific in the list above.
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1/5 cup lemon juice (or 1 Tbsp citric acid)
- *These are ingredient ratios, so scale up quantity of other ingredients based on quantity of flowers you have available.
Place all ingredients in glass or metal jar (not plastic) and stir until sugar is dissolved. Place out of the sun in cool indoor environment not warmer than about 71°F. Affix breathable cover (linen cloth or paper towel work well) over top of container with rubber band or string.
Stir mixture vigorously twice daily, once in the morning, once at night.
Once you start noticing bubbles, that means the yeasts are proliferating and off-gassing. This point varies from 2-4 days depending on the flower type, each of which will have its own unique yeast and bacteria species. Begin doing small taste tests at this point so you develop an intuition about how the ferment develops with age.
~14 days is usually the longest you'll ever let a quick flower ferment develop. Usually they're ready within 7-10 days. Strain out flowers and place finished ferment in jars in your fridge. The cold temperature arrests fermentation/microbial activity. Begin drinking immediately as-is or use in mixed drinks. These ferments continue to "dry" (e.g. lose sweetness and sugar content) the longer they're in the fridge. They're best consumed within 3-6 months.
Go wild for wild flowers
Each season of the year offers new and interesting wild edible plants and fungi to look forward to. For us, these are vital relationships; connections to the seasonal cycles of life and each trip around the sun we have the good fortune to take together. There’s always something new and wonderful to look forward to just around the corner.
We hope you’ll learn to love some of the wild flora and fauna in your neck of the woods as well — including the flowers. Go wild, but be certain you follow the rules of foraging for your own safety.
It’s a delicious world out there!