NOVEMBER FLOWER OF THE MONTH

 CHRYSANTHEMUM

Chrysanthemums are often called mums.  The name comes from the Greek prefix CHRYS that means golden and ANTHEMION, which means flower.  Its original colors were just golden hues.

Chrysanthemum is native to Asia with a history dating back to the 15th century B.C.  The Chrysanthemum first arrived in Japan in the 5th century.  In Japan they celebrate a “Festival of Happiness” to celebrate this flower each year.  The Chinese and Japanese consider Chrysanthemums a powerful emblem of youth. Over 500 cultivars had been recorded by 1630.  By the year 2014, it was estimated that there were now over 20,000 cultivars in the world and 7,000 cultivars in China.  The cultivation began in Japan during the early 8th thru the late 12th centuries and gained popularity in the early 17th to the 19th century.  The Imperial Seal of Japan is a Chrysanthemum, the institution of the monarchy is also called the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Chrysanthemums entered America horticulture in 1798 when Colonel John Stevens imported a cultivated variety known as “Dark Purple” from England.  The introduction was part of an effort to grow alternatives within Elysian’s Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Chrysanthemums are divided into two groups, garden hardy and exhibition.  Garden hardy are new perennials capable of wintering in most northern latitudes.  They are a clumping perennial that grows best in USA zone 3.  Chrysanthemums have a short growing season in the northern portion of the United States because of wind, cold winters and low moisture.  Exhibition varieties are usually not as sturdy.

Chrysanthemums are flowering plants of the genus Chrysanthemum in the family of Asteraceae.  Most species come from East Asia and the center of diversity is in China where the cultivars exist. Chrysanthemums are divided into 13 different bloom forms by the U. S. National Chrysanthemum Society, Inc.  Their blooms are composed of many individual flowers (florets) each one capable of producing seed.  Chrysanthemums are showier than their wild relatives.  Their flower heads occur in various forms.  They can be daisy-like, pompons or buttons.

Chrysanthemums have alternately arranged leaves divided into leaflets with toothed or occasionally smooth edges.  The compound inflorescence can be found in an array of several flower heads or sometimes a solitary head.  The head has a base covered in layers of phyllaries.  The simple row of ray florets is white, yellow or red.  The disc florets of the wild Taxa are yellow.  This plant starts blooming early in the autumn.  

The Chinese also believe that it prevents gray hair.  While the Japanese consider the orderly unfolding of this flower’s petals to represent perfection.  Placing a single petal in the bottom of a glass of wine enhances longevity.  Chrysanthemum symbolizes secrete love, cheerfulness and optimism.  People who have this flower as their birth flower are pleasing and generally good natured.

Yellow or white chrysanthemum flowers of C. morifolium are boiled to make a tea in some parts of East Asia.  In Japan, a rice wine flavored with Chrysanthemum flowers is called “gukhwaju”.  The leaves are steamed or boiled and used as greens in Chinese cuisine.  The flowers may be added to dishes such as Mixian broth.  Japanese cuisine Sashimi uses small Chrysanthemums as a garnish.

The Chrysanthemum, (Pyrethrum cineraria folium), is a natural insecticide.  Pyrethrins attack the nervous system of all insects and inhibit female mosquitoes from biting.  This repellent is harmful to fish, but less toxic to mammals and birds as are many synthetic insecticides.  The NASA Clean Air Study has shown this to reduce indoor air pollution.

Carolyn Surdel

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