May's Full Moon Is the Flower Moon

full moon among flowers
The flower moon refers to the fact that May is a time for flowers in the U.S. mkotera555/Getty Images

You've probably heard a lot about the moons in recent years; people are increasingly curious about what's happening beyond our atmosphere, and it has spurred headlines about everything from the "super blue blood moon" to monthly full moons with unusual nicknames.

In 2023, the full moon in May will occur at 1:34 p.m. ET (4:34 p.m. PT) on May 5, and its nickname is the flower moon. For viewers in the Western Hemisphere, this means that the exact moment of the full moon will occur during daylight hours and so will not be visible — but the moon will be bright and visible in the sky that night, and will not be noticeably "less full" than a few hours earlier at the peak of the moon's cycle.


A Season of Flowers

Most of the nicknames for each month's full moon phase make sense; others require a bit more knowledge of the natural world and how people lived in it to understand their origins and meanings. May's flower moon is one the easier ones to understand, because it comes from the time of year when flowers typically bloom across North America (though that process starts as early as March).

May's "flower moon" nickname has long historical roots and was originally used by the Algonquin people of eastern Canada. This name was picked up by early European settlers in North America, too: Jonathan Carver referred to May as the "Month of Flowers" in his 1798 publication "Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America: 1766, 1767, 1768." Writer Henry David Thoreau also referenced the Native American moon names as well, referencing the flower moon (and Carver) when he wrote about Native Americans.


May's Full Moon has Many Names

There are other nicknames for the full moon in May, too. The Cree people called it the "budding moon" or "leaf budding moon," another reference to the natural process of plants during this season; they also used nicknames like the "egg laying moon" and "frog moon" to refer to the behaviors of animals during this time.

The Dakota and Lakota tribes referred to it as the "planting moon" for the actions people should take for the summer season to come, while the Oglala called it the "moon of shedding ponies." Anyone who owns pets knows that it's not just ponies who shed a layer of winter fur during this time.


In his book "Killers of the Flower Moon," author David Grann wrote that the Osage Nation called it the "flower-killing moon" because the millions of wildflowers blanketing the prairies in April tended to die off in May. The book has been turned into a major motion picture (see sidebar).

Regardless of what you call it today or the origins of that nickname, May in the Northern Hemisphere is a harbinger of warmer weather to come — and future moon nicknames address that accordingly (like June's strawberry moon and July's buck moon).