When you think of fall, visions of brightly coloured chrysanthemums top the list for bringing colour to the house and yard. Fall is awash with these flowers in glorious reds, burnt oranges, pretty yellows and russet browns, all colours just waiting for you to bring them home. Why not take a few minutes now to find out why the chrysanthemum is such a dearly loved flower.
Chrysanthemum – a virtuous history
The mum, short for chrysanthemum, is related to the daisy and is one of the most popular flowers of all time, second only to the rose. It was first planted in China nearly three thousand years ago and is much loved throughout Chinese culture for its ability to withstand frost while blooming cheerfully in many bright colours.
In China, the chrysanthemum is considered one of the Four Gentlemen, sometimes referred to as the Four Noble Ones. Each of the Four Gentlemen represents a season in Chinese art, as well as a specific virtue. Since the chrysanthemum blooms gaily in the chill autumn air and heralds the coming of winter, its virtue is the ability to withstand all adversity. The chrysanthemum has been appearing in Chinese art for centuries.
Luckily, chrysanthemums came to the United States in the nineteen century and are here to stay. In fact, in 1961, Chicago named the chrysanthemum their official flower.
Sometime in August, colourful mums begin replacing summer greenery and annual flowers in garden centres and other stores. Mums come in a plethora of fall shades that include bronzes, russets, yellows, purples and just about every colour in-between, except blue. Mums can be single or double. Chrysanthemums grown in a greenhouse can be bi-coloured and come in colours like lime green. Nothing brings vibrant fall colours into a wedding like mums.
Not only do mums come in an assortment of colours, their petals come in varieties, too. Some have decorative petals that curve inward toward the centre while some have re-flexed petals that curve downward. Mums grown in a greenhouse produce giant pompom mums, and mums with spidery petals that can reach lengths up to six inches.
One strange fact about the mum is that each blossom is comprised of hundreds of flowers, because each petal is considered a ray flower and each tiny bump in the centre of the blossom is the top of a disk flower. Each of these rays and disk flowers has both male and female parts. Mums have been categorized into groups based on different arrangements of each plants ray and disk flowers. A few categories are:
- Anemone – Single, flat petals of more than one row. Raised centre is usually darker than the petals.
- Button – Profusion of small heads in clusters.
- Daisy – Daisy-like petals.
- Decorative – Tightly packed centre with broad, overlapping petals.
- Pompom – Small, tightly packed petals in a globe shape.
- Quill – Tubular ray flowers radiating outward from the centre.
- Spider – Long, spidery looking petals that radiate in all directions.
- Spoon – Looks like a daisy. Every petal tip appears spoon shaped.
Make sure you have the edible chrysanthemum greens and not foliage from ornamental mums. Look in Asian markets for chrysanthemum greens and use in soups, stir-fried meals and stews. Parboil for twenty to thirty seconds and let cool to use in a salad with sesame dressing. Overcooking chrysanthemum leaves makes them bitter. Lower the heat and briefly cook until a tangy taste is achieved.
Medicinal and other properties of Chrysanthemums
Another way to use chrysanthemums is to make a tea from yellow flowers. Add a little sugar and you have a nice, cooling drink that also has medicinal properties. It may help with headaches and dizziness and studies indicate the tea may help bring down high blood pressure.
Chrysanthemum tea is used in traditional Chinese medicine to clear congestion in the head and strengthen the lungs. Drinking this tea with a meal aids in digestion. Another way to use chrysanthemum flowers is to use fresh white flowers on your eyes to clear up itching and it is said the tea helps get counter the effect of low levels of radiation that are emitted from computer screens.
Another benefit chrysanthemums offer is pyrenthrum, a chemical that repels bugs, improves blood flow and reduces varicose veins.
The chrysanthemum is said to be the bearer of joy and happiness. It stands for positive virtues like cheerfulness, optimism, abundance and wealth, so is it any wonder that a happy home is one filled with chrysanthemums?
Overall, chrysanthemums are considered to be the symbol of long life and perfection. The Japanese believe chrysanthemums symbolize the sun and believe the flower is the epitome of perfection in the way it unfolds its petals.
Red mums symbolize love, of course, while white mums are considered messages of loyal love. Lastly, in the love department, yellow mums are a symbol of jilted or slighted love. Mums are the flower associated with being born in November and they are the thirteenth wedding anniversary flower.
One final note: legend and lore has it that if you put a petal of this most celebrated flower in the bottom of your wine glass before you pour, the powers that be will move heaven and earth to bring you a long, healthy life.