The Fabulous Chrysanthemum
How well do you know her?
The beautiful chrysanthemum! We see them everywhere. They are a popular flower in our culture today. But what do you know about this beauty? Are you a lover or just an acquaintance of her?
The chrysanthemum is also known as the mum or the sun flower. There are actually over 30 species of this flower that offer a wide variety of shapes and colors. They come in purples, white, yellow, lavender, red, and bronze. Their beauty has been revered for centuries throughout most of the world. The name given to this flower comes from the Greek meaning golden flower (gold being the original color of the chrysanthemum).
Historically references to the chrysanthemum go as far back as the eighth century in China and Japan. Its native home of China looks at the flower as a flowering herb while Europe and America view it more as a flowering perennial. When the flower first came to Japan from China, the Emperor was so impressed with its beauty that he made the chrysanthemum his official seal. Japan even has a Festival of Happiness in honor of the flower.
Many in Asia use this plant for a sweet drink. They take the yellow or white flowers and boil them to drink for pleasure or to help recover from the influenza. Korea uses it to flavor rice wine. If you travel to China you can find that the leaves of the chrysanthemum are used as greens much like we use spinach or collards.
It is also used as a natural insecticide in gardens. The flowers are processed into a fine powder with a few natural additives. It is so safe that it can be used around food plants.
If you want to improve the air quality in your home, add a few chrysanthemums to your décor. They are reputed to help reduce air pollution over many other of the common household plants.
But if you just want them in your garden they are wonderful to enhance your outdoor décor. They are one of the easiest plants to grow and because they are a perennial you don’t have to replant them year after year. Plant them in early spring as a general rule in full sunshine. After a couple of years of growth, look into dividing the plants to create even more beautiful flowers. They can get up to 3 feet high and are great for cuttings. Use them to decorate your table as a centerpiece or to create a bouquet to give away.
Most flowers are symbolic somewhere in the world. The chrysanthemum is no exception. While we love their beauty here in the states, other countries see them in a different light. France, Croatia, and Poland view the chrysanthemum as a symbol of death much like other countries view the lily. In Asia the white chrysanthemum represents grief. But to others it represents honesty. And if you were born in November, you can proudly claim the chrysanthemum as your birth flower. So in this instance, you have a symbol of birth instead of death.
Just as they are symbolic they are also shrouded in legend. In China it is said that an emperor had heard of an herb located on Dragonfly Island (Japan) that held the secret to youth. Since the emperor desired nothing more than to stay young forever, he sent out a party of young people to bring it back to him. They took with them many pots of chrysanthemum to use for trading for the magical herb. They never found the herb. So instead of going back to deliver such bad news, they stayed on the island and made it their home. The chrysanthemum was grown as a reminder of their homeland that they left behind.
Japan’s legend is a little different. According to their native stories there is only one place that chrysanthemums cannot grow. It is the small village where a great nobleman lived with many valuable possessions around him. He prized them above anything else. In fact, he was so protective of them that no one was allowed to look or touch them save one of his maids. Her name was O-Kiku which means “chrysanthemum”. One day while cleaning the valuables she noticed that a plate was missing from a set. She looked everywhere and could not find it. She knew that when the nobleman discovered that the plate was missing that he would logically blame her. In despair she drowned herself. Every night after that her ghost would appear to count the collection hoping in vain to find the missing plate. This caused the nobleman such stress that he left his home and all his valuables. The village was celebrating his departure because he was a harsh and cruel man. In honor of the deceased maid, they refused to grow chrysanthemums in her honor.
The beautiful chrysanthemum. Full of heritage and pleasant to the eye. Check out the National Chrysanthemum Society site to learn more how you can enjoy this wonderful flower.