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Arnica and the English Marigold

Updated on August 3, 2015

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

The Arnica plant and the English marigold are two popular cottage garden species that grown for their medicinal and culinary purposes. They are both members of the Asteraceae a family of plants to which the common daisy belongs, along with many other garden favourites such as Helenium, Rudbeckia, Echinaceae and the sun flowers. It is an amazing family of plants , many of which are detailed in other hubs I have published. {click on to the highlighted links }

Rudbeckia. Below Helenium

This family contains species such as these Rudbeckia and Helenium below.
This family contains species such as these Rudbeckia and Helenium below. | Source
Helenium flowers
Helenium flowers | Source

I will commence with the arnica which is a genus of around 30 species. The genus name is said to derive from the Greek arna meaning a lamb which may allude to the soft textured and hairy foliage. two of these species are native to Europe Arnica angustifolia and Arnica montana.

It is the species montana that is favoured in the English country garden. Arnica have downy foliage which on the stem is stalkless and arranged in opposite pairs {2-3} located towards the top of the stem. The basal leaves are ovoid and somewhat leathery arranged in a rosette. these leaves have 5-7 longitudal veins.

The flower heads are borne singly or in threes {rarely more}, and are terminal. They are relatively large measuring some 5-8cm across. The "petals" are coloured yellow or orange.  Flowers are composed {like many other members of this family} of 10-15 long ray florets and numerous disc florets at their centre.  the ray florets are narrow and spreading  2-3 times longer than the bracts, which are beneath the flower head.

Components of Arnica


Bracts and seeds

The botanical name given to these bracts is Phyllaries. The bracts have long spreading hairs, each one being associated with each ray floret. In Arnica montana the bracts are in 2-3 rows, lance shaped and terminating with a point. the flowers have a slightly aromatic scent.

The flowers are succeeded by fruits 5mm long which have pappus white or pale tan bristles that help aid seed dispersal. When the foliage of many species are bruised or rubbed they omit a similar smell to pine or sage. They flower from June until September. In the wild they tenant poor grassland, and heaths. Wild plants in the U.K. are protected and should not be collected. in gardens a sunny aspect should be chosen for them.

Arnica flowers

Arnica flowers
Arnica flowers | Source
Close up of the flower head.
Close up of the flower head. | Source

Medicinal preparations

Arnica has long been used in medicinal preparations. The active ingredients include essential oils, bitter principals, and flavonoides. Arnica is used externally {not on broken skin} as an anti-septic ointment to alleviate infections in wounds to promote healing and to treat torn muscles. another component of Arnica montana is a substance called helenalin a lactone which is a major ingredient of an anti-inflammatory preparation that is applied to bruises with great affect. This species also contains derivatives of thymol which is located in the roots it is thought to have a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect. Arnica is utilised in ointments and other commercial products which is favoured by many athletes. Because of its toxic nature arnica should not be taken internally. In Homeopathy it is used to treat inflammed veins, weak heart beat and angina among other afflictions.

Hoverfly on English marigold

Hoverfly enjoying the nectar of the English marigold. Note the double row of ray florets.
Hoverfly enjoying the nectar of the English marigold. Note the double row of ray florets. | Source

English marigold

The next subject under review is the English marigold or pot marigold which belong to the genus Calendula. It is the species Calendula officinalis that is most used for medicinal purposes. {see below} here in the U.k. it is probably one of the most planted genera to enhance sunny situations with their bright yellow or orange flowers. They have been cultivated to produce brown and orange disc florets which contrast beautifully with the yellow petals.

The English marigold Calandula officinalis is a hairy plant that attains the height of 50-80cm, under favourable growing conditions. The stem is erect and tends to branch towards the top.

Components of the English Marigold.

components of Calendula officinalis
components of Calendula officinalis

Foliage and flowers

The foliage are oblong lanceolate 5-18cm long, hairy on both sides with untoothed margins although they are often wavy. Like arnica the flower heads are composed of ray florets which surround a central mass of disc florets. Beneath the flower head are two rows of hairy bracts. the flowers are succeeded by hard curved seeds {achene}.

Any gardener afflicted by poor soil should grow this plant, it thrives in the face of adversity, all the plant requires is a sunny aspect to be at their best, although they will produce some flowers in light shade. Many cultivated varieties of Calendula, have double rows of ray florets. Some have been bred to produce only ray florets such as the variety "Lemon" and "orange prince". Althopugh they are termed as short lived perennials they are proficient self seeding, and I find treating them as annuals to be more descriptive for the species. In the wild they are encountered on tips, waste ground, in and near by old gardens.

Variety of English marigold

variety with brown hues in the disc florets.
variety with brown hues in the disc florets. | Source

Medicinal uses

The English marigold is utilized for both medicinal and culinary purposes. The plants contain essential oils, saponins, bitter principals, carotenoides and flavonoides. They are used as anti-septic and as a anti-fungals. Internally they are used to treat the liver. They are utilised in creams, salves and ointments, which have long been used to treat skin disorders. Tinctures made from extracts have been employed to counteract acne and for reducing inflammations, controlling bleeding and for soothing irritations.

Most plants that are used to control bleeding have high contents of tannins which make them astringent. However, despite the low amount of tannin present the English marigold is considered to be astringent. In days gone by they were utilised to treat abdominal cramps and constipation. An infusion was also employed to treat abscesses or boils. It was applied in the form of a lotion then covered with a bandage. An infusion of the petals was considered to an excellent gargle for mouth and throat infections.

Insects are attracted to the blooms

Insect are attracted to the blooms.
Insect are attracted to the blooms. | Source

Edible parts

Both the flower petals {rays} and the foliage are edible and make a useful contribution in brightening up green salads. The flowers have also been used when cooking rice and fish dishes.

These two species of the Asteraceae family are just a fraction of the species that make up this large family of flowering plants. I have no doubt that I shall revisited this diverse family in future hubs.

African marigolds and below Marigold

Another species of marigold favoured in gardens is the African marigold.
Another species of marigold favoured in gardens is the African marigold. | Source
English marigolds enjoying the sun.
English marigolds enjoying the sun. | Source


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      kaie, you are welcome.Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to leave your appreciated comment.

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 

      9 years ago

      Marigolds.............. I do nothing but gaze at them, but thanks for letting me know that they are have far more depth than their beauty! Kaie

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      PeggyW, Once again I have to thank you too for your warm and appreciated comments. French marigolds are also well planted over here, as bedding plants. Best wishes to you.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This was interesting as always. I am more familiar with the African marigold than the English one and was intrigued to learn about their medicinal purposes. Those photos you captured of the bees on the flowers were wonderful! Thanks for another enjoyable and beautiful hub.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hello Darski, yes I am like Sherlock, but without the magnifying glass {well most of the time}. You make me smile every time I see your name on my hubs. No I m not so serious all the time. If you ever join me on a walk I would laugh as much as you would. Been over to see your hub it was brill. Nice to hear from you my dear friend. Best wishes to you.

      sofs, What a nice compliment. Your children are so lucky to have a mum with the knowledge and the wisdom to manufacture ointments.. Best wishes to you.

    • sofs profile image


      9 years ago

      D.A.L, I always leave a part of my heart with your pictures the incurable romantic that i am... awesome.. I never move out of the house without Arnica or calendula homeopathic pills and tincture..the are the magic healers... my children know how to treat bruises, just get the Arnica or the Calendula...ointment that I make with the tinctures....Glad to find the same kind of thinking..

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      9 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Oh how I have missed you during my trip, but do tell me my dear friend, are you alway so serious? Do you laugh and play and roll in the green grasses? I see you as Sherlock with your magnifing glass looking for the perfect plant. If I were to walk with you on this day, I would make you laugh so hard it would make you cry. I am happy to be home so your so easy to find. You must read my new hub on Central Park, I promise you this one you will love. I love you my buddy from across the sea, someday you must promise to come visit darski

      love this hub, rate up up and up....

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      John Holden, nice to meet you, thank you for your visit and for taking the time to comment. Best wishes to you.

      2uesday, your welcome, glad you now know how to recognise arnica flowers. Thank you for your kind and appreciated comments.Best wishes to you.

    • 2uesday profile image


      9 years ago

      Hello D.A.L. I was interested to see what arnica flowers looked like as we have used this in Homeopathic form and also as a gel for bruising. I must say I was sceptical that the tiny pills would work when they were recommended but they did seem to help.

      Pot marigolds love the sandy soil here, and we have found it soothing ingredient when used in skin creams. Another interesting to read and beautiful hub from you, thank you.

    • John Holden profile image

      John Holden 

      9 years ago

      Manna for the arm-chair gardener. Many thanks.


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