Pinks (Carnations) – Dianthus SPP.: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Cloves of Wild Plants

Table of Contents

Pinks AKA carnations (dianthus spp.) noted in Haliburton Flora include the uncommon to likely now more common Deptford pink (dianthus armeria), found on sandy roadsides amoung grasses. I see Deptford’s bright pink often along park edges and well used trails. A couple rare varieties included are maiden pink (d. deltoides) and garden pink (d. plumarius). Unlisted in Haliburton Flora is the ever popular sweet William (d. barbatus), but I’ve seen it sporadically and it has escaped into Algonquin park. Due to the popularity of cultivators, there are probably more out there. These are all nonnative.

Pinks (Carnations) – Dianthus SPP.
Pinks (Carnations) – Dianthus SPP.
Pinks (Carnations) – Dianthus SPP.
Pinks (Carnations) – Dianthus SPP.

Edible Uses of Pinks

The blossoms of pinks don’t just make for decorative garnish, they have a clove flavour. They are wonderful crystallized in sugar and used on baked goods. Like all edible flowers, pick fresh blooms. Remove the pistils and stamens.

The leaves are somewhat toxic, but some cultures steam or boil them to eat. The leaves may cause an upset stomach for some folks.

Medicinal Uses of Pinks

Pinks are primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Urinary
  • Reproductive

Medicinal tags include Antibacterial, Antihemorrhagic, Anti-inflammatory, Diaphoretic, Diuretic and Emmenagogue. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes mainly the species d. chinesus used for bladder and kidney issues. It’s usually combined with other ingredients for issues like stones and UTIs.

Alternative Uses of Carnations

White carnations in dyed water will change colour, like Queen Anne’s lace flowers.

Garden Pinks and Carnations – Dianthus SPP. look a little like soapwort before blooming.

Growing Dianthus SPP.

Sadly, there are no native carnations to Ontario. There’s only one Canadian native, far away in the Yukon. These nonnatives carnations like sweet William can be aggressive in disturbed areas and gardens, but could be grown in pots and deadheaded to control the seeds. The pinks are apparently less aggressive.

Native alternatives include blue-eyed grass, an iris which has a similar vibe to Deptford pinks AKA grass pinks. There are a handful of native moths and butterflies who will use pinks as host plants, so some folks leave the Deptford pink where it pops up. As for the more bloom-full carnations, does anyone have some native recommendations of a similar height and look? An albeit taller native with clusters of pink flowers is fireweed.


In some folks, the flowers and leaves can cause contact dermatitis.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Every book I reference that is available on Amazon is linked to with an associates link.



Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments

Please Like, Comment, Share! We'd love to hear your stories and knowledge! Thank you!

Leave a Comment