It’s Time for Wildflowers — and Magic


Mocktails. Photo by Betsy Harris

By Lauri deGaris

This time of year, there is no surer sign of spring than wildflowers. And I am ready for spring in every sense of the word. The renewal, the awakening, the rebirth of life after the darkness of winter, spring is finally here and so are the wildflowers.

Flora was the Greek goddess of flowers, and Chloris was the Roman goddess who conveyed the meaning “green.” Zephyr was the west wind who fell in love with Chloris. He pursued her and fell in love. Then, he married her after discovering flowers spilled from her lips when they kissed.

Poets suggest we flourish in concert with flowers. Flowers emerge from the hidden seeding place within souls. The alchemical lily is incorruptible and eternal, very noble. Flowers are incorporated in rituals and sacraments all over the world. The simplest flower form has a radial shape, linking it with the mandala, representing the wheel of change, cosmic movement around the center.

The Holy Spirit makes itself known this time of year through lilies. Unfolding white petals with penetrating fragrance balance the flaming sword of judgment and resurrection. Mythically, the short-lived lily represents the young who die before reaching maturity.

Lilies encompass almost 4,000 species and can be found in every part of the world. In addition to the white lily, there are beautiful pink, blue, yellow, and red lilies to delight our senses. The golden nectar of a lily invites pollen carriers in, enticing them with bright colors and fragrant flowers.

Lilies bloom early each spring. This spring, I wanted to discover where native lilies might be found locally. So, I called on my sweet friend Betsy Harris for advice. Betsy is a local forager. For those of you who may not know what that means, Betsy collects and consumes wild food from our region. Not only does she collect and consume wild food, she transforms native ingredients into delectable and nutritious dishes. And, she shares her recipes and poetic foraging prose with all.

Rain Lily. Photo by Lauri deGaris

Betsy shared with me that Zephryranthes lilies (rain lilies) were all over Suwannee County, but she had not seen them locally yet. Undiscouraged, I set out with my picnic basket and camera to see if I could locate lilies locally. This provided me with an excuse to enjoy a picnic, which is another favorite activity of mine.

To my genuine delight, I found the west wind of lilies, Zephyranthes, rain lilies, shimmering in the sunlight along a long stretch of County Road 108, between Hilliard and Callahan. These beauties were standing, full of promise and pollen attracting more than just the bees. I immediately pulled off the side of the road and gazed upon these stunning flowers. Redolent, fragrant, sweet-smelling lilies showed off for my camera.

Admiring roadside flowers has been a favorite pastime for me over the years. This spring, I have a renewed sense of enthusiasm for flowers and am ready to try foraging for myself. I am inspired by the year-round recipes Betsy Harris shares freely. Her wildcrafted mocktails include flavors like elderberry ginger, strawberry toothache tree, red bay and mayhaw.

Betsy is incredibly creative when describing the food she forages. Here she perfectly describes a few unique ideas I plan to incorporate into my picnic basket soon.

A wild and wonderful lunch on the run…

  • Fresh spring rolls w/rice noodles, meadow garlic, cucumber weed, carrot, avocado, tofu and wood sorrel.
  • Elderberry pickled eggs w/sumac sprinkle
  • Cream cheese w/pine cone syrup
  • Elderberry pickled onions and wild radish pods
  • Smoked Gouda w/meadow garlic and wild radish blossoms

Wild radish, Raphanus raphanistrum, is one of the first wild weeds to spring up at the start of the year in North Florida. Edible from root to shoot, I like the flowers and very young seed pods best. A member of the large mustard family, all parts of the plant have a little kick to them, including the root, which has been used as a horseradish substitute. You’ll often find it flowering prolifically along fence lines, roadsides, and mowed trails.

Picnic items. Photo by Betsy Harris

Recently, Betsy spoke at the Coastal WildScapes 14th Annual Symposium in Savannah, Georgia. Her presentation and recipes can be found here.

Meeting Betsy is like finding a treasure chest on the beach full of priceless gifts. Each spring and summer, you can find Betsy on the beach running “Surf Asylum,” a surf camp for kids on Amelia Island. Our community is extremely fortunate to have Betsy living among us.

I love to cook, and I love to search for wildflowers. Now, I am super excited to combine the two. Thanks to inspiration from my lovely friend Betsy Harris, I will be experimenting with all kinds of new ingredients and flavors this year.

If you are looking for me anytime soon, I can be found singing John Denver’s song “Sweet Surrender,” … “driving along some broken highway, forgotten by many, remembered by few…” looking for wildflowers.


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Kimberly Lewis
Kimberly Lewis(@lewiski)
30 days ago

The country roads in Hilliard also offer native azaleas and swamp iris in spring. I love that you found some of our rain lilies! As a bonus, you may see eagles overhead as you look at wildflowers.