Weeds with Purple Flowers: A Guide for Identification

Weeds with purple flowers are not only incredibly common but also highly popular among bees and other pollinators. These low-growing plants not only add a vibrant touch to your yard but also have various edible and medicinal properties. However, it’s important to note that some purple-flowered weeds can be toxic. So, before using any of these plants, proper identification is crucial.

If you find yourself spotting patches of purple flowers in your grass while walking around your yard, don’t be surprised. Small, low-growing weeds with purple flowers are quite common, and as a forager, I’m often asked to identify them. These plants, especially those with tiny purple flowers, are attractive to pollinators, which is why there are so many of them. The more pollinators they attract, the more seeds they produce, making them incredibly prolific. Many of these plants are also spread by runners and can tolerate being mowed.

The good news is that most purple-flowered weeds are not only edible but also possess medicinal properties. These common lawn weeds were once treasured by ancient civilizations that relied on wild plants for food and medicine. The same purple flowers that catch your eye also captivated people’s attention centuries ago. However, it’s important to exercise caution as some purple-flowered weeds, like nightshade, are toxic.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common wild weeds with purple flowers and how to identify them:

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)

While its name suggests “blue” flowers, blue vervain actually produces beautiful purple or violet flowers. These plants grow around 2 to 3 feet tall and feature stunning flower spikes. Blue vervain can typically be found at the shady edges of fields, especially in moist areas. Besides its visual appeal, blue vervain has significant medicinal value and is used to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, and various other ailments. Every part of the plant is edible, with the seeds being the preferred food source.

Bugleweed (Ajuga sp.)

Bugleweed, also known by various other names, is a low-growing lawn weed that features purple flowers. It has multiple uses worldwide and is often employed to balance hormones, particularly for thyroid imbalances. Bugleweed is sometimes used in salves for minor injuries. If you’re interested in identifying bugleweed, check out our identification guide.

Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

Bull thistle is a rather disliked plant due to its prickly nature, but bees absolutely love it. Although it can grow in lawns and avoid being mowed by spreading out flat as a rosette, its distinctive purple flowers usually appear on tall spikes that reach 3 to 6 feet in height. Surprisingly, every part of the plant is edible, including the root, stalk, leaves, and flowers. However, removing the spines requires some bravery. Learn more about identifying bull thistle and explore ways to incorporate it into your meals.

Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Also known as creeping thistle, Canada thistle is an incredibly invasive and resilient plant. It forms spiny rosettes when mowed, waiting for an opportunity to send up fluffy purple flower spikes. Although its flowers are popular among bees, the airborne seeds they produce can quickly overtake an area. Despite its spikiness, Canada thistle is edible. Discover how to identify this plant and learn more about its uses.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives, although commonly grown in gardens, often escape cultivation and establish themselves in fields and lawns. These wild patches of chives may surprise you with their spicy purple flowers. Chives are edible and are typically harvested for their greens, commonly used as toppings for baked potatoes in the US. However, their spicy purple flowers can be used to create various culinary delights, such as chive blossom vinegar and savory chive blossom jelly. If you come across patches of chives in the wild, you can learn to identify them and utilize their flavorsome flowers.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Comfrey, widely known in permaculture circles, serves as an excellent plant for attracting pollinators and enhancing soils. However, once established, it becomes incredibly invasive and difficult to remove. Every small part of its root left in the soil can give rise to a new plant. While it may pose challenges in terms of control, comfrey benefits from its popularity among bees and its medicinal properties. For those with an abundance of comfrey, creating a medicated comfrey salve is a great option. Check out our guide to identifying comfrey.

Dove’s-Foot Geranium (Geranium molle)

Dove’s-foot geranium, also known as doves food cranebill or wild geranium, is an exceptionally beautiful weed. Its appearance is so captivating that you might mistake it for an intentionally planted flower. However, this low-growing weed spreads rapidly. Despite being considered a weed, its allure remains undeniable. Learn how to identify this gem among weeds, known for its stunning purple flowers.

Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium)

Commonly known as rosebay willowherb, fireweed is a primary succession plant that thrives after fires, floods, or other disturbances. In Alaska, the progression of summer is determined by the blossoming progress of fireweed up its stalk. The plant is entirely edible and boasts medicinal properties. The leaves are used to make a tea substitute known as Ivan Chai, while the flowers are used to create fireweed jelly. Discover the characteristics of fireweed and how to identify it.

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

Ground ivy, also referred to as creeping Charlie and Ale Hoof, has been utilized as both food and medicine for centuries. Its nickname “ale hoof” stems from its historical use in beer brewing before hops became widely available. This common lawn weed with purple flowers tends to dominate areas with good fertility and consistent moisture. Learn how to identify ground ivy and explore its culinary and medicinal uses.

Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris)

As the name suggests, heal-all is a low-growing weed with purple flowers that possesses numerous medicinal properties. Cultures worldwide have used this plant medicinally and regard it as a remedy for various ailments. Learn more about identifying heal-all and the potential uses of this versatile plant.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

Henbit, also known as henbit deadnettle, belongs to the mint family and features purple to pink flowers with small spines. While it’s often mistaken for purple dead nettle, both plants are edible and possess medicinal qualities. If you’re interested in identifying henbit, check out our guide.

Nightshade (Solanum sp.)

Nightshade encompasses several species with small purple flowers, including black nightshade and bittersweet nightshade. Most wild plants belonging to the nightshade family are toxic and invasive. It’s essential to exercise caution, especially if there are young children around who might be tempted by the attractive purple flowers that turn into poisonous fruits. While there are edible species of nightshade, most have been cultivated (such as tomatoes and eggplants). A few edible wild species exist, but their close resemblance to toxic counterparts makes them risky for foragers. Learn more about identifying nightshade in our comprehensive guide.

Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Purple dead nettle, almost as common as dandelions in certain regions, is infamous for its ability to quickly take over large areas of lawns. Unlike stinging nettle, purple dead nettle lacks stinging hairs, which is why it’s referred to as “dead nettle.” This plant is both edible and medicinal, with its leaves being used in salves to stop bleeding. Learn how to identify purple dead nettle and explore its uses.

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Purple loosestrife is a common invasive field weed with stunning purple to pink spikes of flowers. Although not commonly consumed, every part of the plant is technically edible. However, it’s often confused with other purple-flowered weeds such as blue vervain and fireweed. If you’re interested in identifying purple loosestrife, refer to our identification guide.

Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa)

Spotted knapweed is another beautiful purple flower that’s often considered a weed due to its rapid spread. It may surprise you to learn that this striking plant wasn’t intentionally planted when you come across it in your flower beds. While the flowers are edible, the rest of the plant is generally not consumed. Learn how to identify spotted knapweed and discover its unique characteristics.

Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea)

Wood sorrels typically feature yellow flowers, but violet wood sorrel is a variant with purple flowers. All wood sorrels are edible and have a tangy lemon-like flavor. They are known for being used in various culinary creations, including wood sorrel ice cream. Although their leaves resemble those of clover, the flowers of violet wood sorrel set them apart. Learn to identify this delightful plant in our detailed guide.

Wild Violet (Viola sp.)

Wild violets, loved by many and considered invasive by others, can take over moist, shady spots. These vibrant purple flowers often outcompete grass and can tolerate mowing. Wild violets can also produce white and yellow flowers. The entire plant is edible and medicinal, with the flowers being commonly eaten. Additionally, wild violet jelly can be created, offering a taste reminiscent of blueberries. The leaves, on the other hand, are primarily used in salves to promote lymphatic drainage. Learn more about identifying wild violets and their various uses.

These are just a few examples of the many weeds with purple flowers that you might encounter. If you’re interested in foraging and discovering more edible wild plants, there are numerous resources available. From chickweed to yarrow, the world of foraging is vast and exciting. Keep exploring and learning about the plants that surround us, and you’ll unlock a wealth of knowledge and sustenance from nature’s bounty.

Weeds with Purple Flowers