wildfire » wildflowers

Chiefly in:   spread like wildflowers

Variant(s):  wildflower

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • “Little wonder Buddhism spread like wildflowers.” (link)
  • “In the early 1960s, rock and roll was spreading like wildflowers.” (student paper, quoted by Michael Quinion on ADS-L, 12 May 2005)
  • “Everyone wants to get to the front, Everyone wants to move on, Change the course of their life, The mob mentality spreads like wildflower…” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • commenter Carl Hart, 1 March 2005 (link)

The first cite is from Hart’s comment.

Writing on ADS-L on 12 May 2005, Larry Horn reported 352 Google web hits for “spreading like wildflowers” (as against 42,200 for “spreading like wildfire”). I then did a search on the forms of SPREAD (”spread”, “spreads”, “spreading”) with “wildflowers” and “wildflower” both:

SPREAD + wildflowers: 435 total
SPREAD + wildflower: 118 total
grand total: 553

People who come across examples and find them novel often comment on the poetic character of the “wildflower(s)” versions. In a follow-up to Horn, Quinion noted that some of the examples “are particularly apposite: ‘Aromatherapy is spreading like wildflowers’ and (from phillyburbs.com) ‘Yurts, fire tower lookouts and backcountry huts are spreading like wildflowers as increasingly available options for vacationers looking for inexpensive ways of staying in the great outdoors.’ “

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/05/12 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Rob Francis , 2006/08/31 at 10:50 am

    My wife always uses the phrase ’spread like wild flies’ which I reckon is a great improvement on both the original and the one above.

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