Book Review: The Secrets of Wildflowers

“The Secrets of Wildflowers: A delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History”

by Jack Sanders


This was a Christmas gift and I’ve been losing myself in it on and off through the spring. The word “Feast” in the title is very appropriate – and “delightful” it is too!

Although the focus is on North American flowers, many are also prevalent in Germany and Europe, some even native. In the introduction the author states that his book covers both “natives and immigrants, friends or foes, because both kinds are here and both are interesting”. I like this attitude, as I find so many non-native plants growing wild, and think they are just as valuable as the native ones.


Divided into Spring, Summer, Late Summer and Fall, it is easy to find what is flowering now. Each flower has its own chapter, which gives some botanical information and tells you a little about the plant’s history, the common names given, uses (medicinal, culinary etc) and myths or traditions surrounding it. The chapters are broken up nicely into little chunks – very readable. The botanical details are also fed to the reader in a clear way, without getting too complicated and without being patronizing. I am learning so much and in such an enjoyable tone.

I was immediately impressed because it is the first source I have found that upholds my belief that Hepatica nobilis sometimes gives off a wonderful scent… I was beginning to think it was my imagination, but Sanders quotes the naturalist John Burroughs: “Group after group may be inspected, ranging through all shades of purple and blue, with some perfectly white, and no odor to be detected, when presently you will happen upon a little brood of them that have a most delicate and delicious fragrance.”


Occasionally a poem or quotes are included, even a recipe or two, and the little lesser known details and legends are so fascinating! Did you know, for example, that gypsies used to smoke Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago) for pleasure? Or that spring violet leaves are extremely high in vitamin C? Or that a German scientist counted 93 species of insect that visited the dandelion flower?…

I shall be reading each chapter as the flower appears here, learning new and interesting facts and enjoying the feast daily. This book gets top marks for writing style AND content. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who loves wild flowers!

27 thoughts on “Book Review: The Secrets of Wildflowers

  1. I find book reviews very hard to write, yet good ones are so enjoyable to read. This is a good one! This sounds like a book I’ll like. Thank you for the recommendation!

  2. Es scheint ein sehr wichtiges Buch zu sein – und unterhaltsam πŸ™‚ I could smoke a lot for all the coltsfoot IΒ΄ ve found this spring πŸ™‚ And to look on plants, which insects they host, is very interesting.
    Have a nice sunday! The sun is shining here πŸ™‚ Uta

    • Thanks Uta. I found a hill full of coltsfoot recently – all going to seed, so I’ll have a supply of leaves for smoking soon too! πŸ˜‰ (I’m a non-smoker by the way! LOL)

  3. What a lovely book! We’ve so few bookstores left as the business of books has gone digital and selling has moved to the internet. A personal review with substance is golden!

  4. Great review Cathy. I was able to find the rest of the columbine chapter online and it was very interesting. Enjoy your reading. Nice idea to read along as plants begin blooming.

    • You’ll love this then… just reading how Speedwell was once used to treat skin complaints as well as coughs and “fretting and spreading cankers”!

  5. Lovely pictures! I like it that the author has put photos next to the stories. It makes it easier to recognize the flowers (for me anyway πŸ˜‰ )

    • LOL! I had to laugh, because in Britain I’d say “right up my STREET”. Glad you like the sound of this Sheryl. I’m pretty sure you’ll love it! πŸ˜€

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