Edible flowers for hermit crabs

Safe flowers for hermit crabs

Edible flowers for hermit crabs

Written by Julia Crab Monday, 23 May 2005

Did you know that flowers are good for crabs? They contain vitamin C as well as vitamin A and many of the pigmentation substances such as beta carotene. As there has been no study done on the nutritional content of flowers, much of their value remains a mystery. But crabs will enthusiastically eat flowers from this edible flower list, and prefer them as they wilt and die. Dead flowers are a particular favorite!

Before offering flowers, be sure to check that they have not been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals, and that they’ve been fed organic plant foods. Otherwise they will not be healthy for your crabs to eat. I frequently buy bouquets of edible flowers from the organic farmer’s market near my home.

The flowers can be frozen or put in a food dehydrator as well. In fact, my crabs seem to prefer the taste of a thawed rose to a freshly wilted one.

Here is our edible flower list. Read the article at the end to be certain of which parts of a plant to use.

Borage blossoms (Borago officinalis)
Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis)-Also known as “pot marigolds”
Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Clover (flowers, leaves)
Daisies (Bellis perennis)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (flowers, leaves, roots)
Day lilies (Hemerocallis)
Elderberry flowers (Sambucus canadensis)
Gladiolus (Gladiolus spp.)
Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Honeysuckle flowers (Japanese Lonicera japonica)
Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana)
Jasmine (Jasmine officinale)
Johnny-Jump-Up flowers–(Viola tricolor)
Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Pansy (Viola X Wittrockiana) (flowers and leaves)
Passionflowers (Passifloraceae – passion flower family)

Prickly Pear (flowers and cactus)
Rose (Rosa spp)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Squash blossoms
Sunflower (Helianthus) (flowers, leaves, seeds)
Tulips (Tulipa spp.)
Violet (Viola odorata)

Other herb flowers-The tiny flowering blooms of the following spices are edible: anise, basil, bee balm, chives, coriander (cilantro), dill, fennel, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.


Edible flowers often can be found at local farmer’s markets and gourmet grocery stores. Check with the vendor to be sure that they were organically grown. There are approximately eighty different flowers that can be safely used as food. The most enjoyable way to get these interesting additions to the diet of your family and your parrots is to grow your own!


Common edible flower varieties should be chosen for your first flower gardening adventure. Carefully follow planting, watering, and fertilization practices for garden flowers. Only organic pesticides should be used. Separate growing areas should be used for the growing of ornamental flowers requiring pesticides. Do not plant other annuals or perennials in the same area as edible flowers since pesticides from ornamentals could contaminate the edible varieties. Some gardeners plant their edible flowers indoors in sunny kitchen windows and under grow lights to avoid pesticide contamination.


As much as crabs enjoy the variety and the visual stimulation of flowers in their diet, it is as essential that we learn the difference between toxic and non-toxic varieties, as it is to use only untreated flowers. One can use a good reference book on edible flowers, available in local libraries and online. Do not use flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers. Unless otherwise stated, these flowers have almost certainly been treated with pesticides which were not intended for food crops. Chemicals are used in all phases of ornamental growth and these chemicals are unsafe for human or parrot consumption. Flowers picked from the side of the road never should be eaten by human or parrot. Highly poisonous herbicides are used to eliminate weeds and plants bordering roadways so roadside flowers can be deadly fare. One of the best books for identifying safe flowers is Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman’s Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide (Sterling Publishing Company).


(These are the most commonly consumed flowers of the eighty edible

* Borage blossoms (Borago officinalis)-Tiny blue flowers have slight cucumber flavor.
* Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis)-Also known as “pot marigolds”, multi-colored blooms with a peppery taste. Sometimes
called “poor man’s saffron”
* Carnation flowers (Dianthus caryophyllus)-Red, pink, and white blossoms with clove taste.
* Chamomile flowers (Chamaemilum nobile)-Daisy-like flowers with a slight hint of apple flavor. Especially good for parrots when
calming influence is needed.
* Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)-the lavander-pink pom pom flower is actually composed of many small florets. Flowers have a mild
onion flavor.
* Daisies (Bellis perennis)-Yellow and white flowers with light mint or clover flavor. Flowers
* Dandelion flowers – pictured (Taraxacum officinale)-Small yellow blossoms have honey flavor when picked young. Older flowers are
bitter but my Eclectus parrots do not seem to notice. Also offer the dandelion leaves which are an excellent source of nutrition.
* Day lilies (Hemerocallis)-Many colored blossoms with sweet taste and crunchy lettuce texture. Flower buds and blossoms can be
consumed at all stages of growth. Note: Many lilies (Lillium species) contain alkaloids and are NOT safe for parrots or people.
* Elderberry flowers (Sambucus canadensis)-Sweet tasting flowers. For colds and chills, Gypsies mix elderberry flowers, yarrow
and peppermint and steep in boiling water for 13 minutes, and drink tea frequently.
* Gladiolus (Gladiolus spp.)Flowers of many colors grow on a spike with flowers above each other, all usually facing the same way.
Has lettuce texture and flavor.
* Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)-Tropical blossoms in a variety of colors have slightly acidic taste. One of the favorite
flowers of most parrot species.
* Honeysuckle flowers (Japanese Lonicera japonica)-Small white to yellow trumpet-shaped blossoms are sweet and delicious. Parrots
relish these flowers and the Loridae family of birds especially loves the honeysuckle nectar. Only the Japanese honeysuckle is edible and only the blooms should be used as the berries are extremely poisonous. Offer only the flowers so that no berries on the vines will
accidentally be eaten.
* Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana)-Multi-color small blooms with mild taste.
* Johnny-Jump-Up flowers–(Viola tricolor) Yellow, violet, and lavender flowers with wintergreen flavor. Leaves are also edible and
contain vitamin C.
* Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)–Lavender blossoms have heavy floral fragrance and lemon flavor.
* Marigolds flowers (Tagetes signata pumila)-Bright yellow and orange flowers with citrus flavor.
* Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)-Purple flowers are edible as well as leaves and seeds which are known for benefits to liver.
* Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)–Red, yellow, and orange flowers have a tangy, peppery flavor and are the most popular of all
edible flowers. Leaves can be eaten too.
* Pansies (Viola X Wittrockiana)-Purple, white, yellow bi-color blooms have a sweet, tart flavor. Flowers
* Passionflowers – pictured (Passifloraceae – passion flower family)–Passiflora caerulea and Passiflora edulis are two of the
hundreds of varieties. Some vines produce large greenish white and purple blossoms and then orange or purple edible fruit, depending upon the variety of the plant. *See website below with information and photos of 200 Passionflower varieties.
* Roses (Rosa spp)-Some of the tastiest rose varieties are Rosa xdamascena, Rosa gallica, and Rosa rugosa, Flower carpet rose,
Double Delight, Mirandy, and Tiffany variety. Roses have a slight fruity flavor.
* Sage (Salvia officinalis)-Lavender-blue flower spikes grow only on the culinary variety. The variegated species of sage do not
flower. Flowers have distinctive sage flavor.
* Other herb flowers-The tiny flowering blooms of the following spices are edible: anise, basil, bee balm, chives, coriander
(cilantro), dill, fennel, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.
* Sunflowers (Helianthus)–Many varieties but most have yellow leaves around a “black eye” center. Mature flowers contain the seed
that all parrots find so irresistible!
* Tree flowers-Parrots can be offered the flowering blooms of the following trees: Apple, bottlebrush, citrus (orange, lemon, lime,
grapefruit, kumquat), eucalyptus, melaleuca, and plum.
* Tulips (Tulipa spp.)-Multi-color flowers with crisp, cucumber taste.
* Vegetable flowers-Butterblossom squash flowers have slight squash taste. Zucchini flowers, podded pea flowers (ornamental peas
are poisonous), okra, pumpkin, and runner bean flowers are edible.
* Violets (Viola odorata)-Deep violet and white color with sweet wintergreen taste.


Flowers The Bach Flower remedy system of healing was developed by the British physician, Dr Edward Bach, in the 1930s. The remedies are based on the belief that flowers have healing properties. Flower essences are prepared by the infusion methods and are used for the purpose of removing negative emotions that can affect health and lead to disease. Bach Flower remedies are prepared from the non-poisonous flowers of certain trees, plants and shrubs. They are non-toxic, non-addictive, and can be taken by people and pets of all ages. If these remedies do in fact have healing qualities, perhaps the fresh non-toxic flowers would have a similar effect. Examples of the healing qualities of edible flower remedies are honeysuckles (pictured) for homesickness, nostalgia, and sadness as well as impatiens flowers for irritability, impatience, nervous tension, and muscular pain.


Flowers Aloe Vera Flower, Basil, Blackberry, Bleeding Heart, Borage, Calendula, California Wild Rose, Chamomile, Chrysanthemum, Corn, Dandelion, Dill Flower, Echinacea, Evening Primrose, Garlic, Hibiscus, Iris, Lavender, Milkweed, Mullein, Nasturtium (pictured), Peppermint, Pomegranate, Red Clover, Rosemary, Sage, Sunflower, Violet, Yarrow, Yerba Santa.


There are many more flowers that are poisonous than are edible.The use of botanical names is important due to the fact that common names vary in different regions of the country. Two plants may be known by the same common name while one is toxic and the other is edible. The following is only a partial list of the most common toxic flowers and their botanical names:

* Anemone or windflower (Anemone spp.)
* Autumn crocus (Colchicum spp.)
* Azalea and rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)
* Buttercup (Ranunculus spp.)
* Clematis (Clematis spp.)
* Daffodil (Narcissus spp.)
* Delphinium or Larkspur (Delphinium spp.)
* Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
* Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)
* Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.)
* Iris (Iris spp.)
* Lantana (Lantana camara)
* Lobelia or Cardinal flower (Lobelia spp.)
* Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
* Morning glory (Ipomoea spp.)
* Oleander (Nerium oleander)
* Periwinkle myrtle and vinca (Vinca spp.)
* Wisteria (Wisteria spp.)

Additional Resources:

Book recommendations:
“Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide” by Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman (Sterling Publishing Company).

“Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palate” by Cathy Wilkinson Barash (Fulcrum Publishing, 1993, 1995 $22.95)

Winged Wisdom Note: Carolyn Swicegood is a devoted fan of Eclectus parrots. Her aviary, The Land of Vos, specializes in the Vosmaeri subspecies. Carolyn has written for a variety of magazines and currently serves as Associate Editor of “Watchbird” magazine published by the American Federation of Aviculture. http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww38eii.htm

Special thank you to Vanessa Pike-Russell for locating and supplying the article.