Thursday, November 26, 2009


This is Tagetes lucida - commonly called the Mexican marigold. It's a half-hardy woody perennial - sort of a shrub - native to Mexico and Central America. This plant is growing along the roadside of my friend Anthea's garden. more orange-yellow. When you rub the leaves with your fingers and then smell the scent, it's like tarragon or anise. In Mexico, they call this plant "Pericón" and use the leaves to make tea.

This plant was selected, bred, and hybridized to make the flowers we call "marigold" today, including the compact russet and gold French marigolds, and the tall fluffy double-flowered marigolds used to decorate family altars on Dias de los Muertos.

Tagetes marigolds are also cultivated in India and Thailand, and used in garlands and wedding decorations.

The city of Lompoc, California, in the wine country of Santa Barbara County, was once home to a thriving flower industry, growing nursery plants and producing flower seeds. This is a field of tagetes marigolds we passed during our visit there this September.

The word "marigold" was applied by medieval Europeans to an entirely different flower - the Calendula officianalis, a hardy annual that grows in temperate climates. It's name comes from the latin calendulae - or calendar, and probably attests to its ability to thrive in mild climates almost year-round. It's an edible plant, its petals are often used in salads, and traditionally farmers have fed its flowers to chickens to make egg yolks pleasingly yellow. This is the flower that Shakespeare meant when he wrote in The Winter's Tale: "The Marigold that goes to bed with the sun/ And with him rises weeping."

It also grows here, in our Southern California climate. In fact, it grows like a weed. Calendula seedlings are growing on vacant lots and hillsides in my neighborhood.

So here we are. Mexican marigold on one corner, Old World calendula on the other. Who says we can't meet in the middle?


Queenly Things said...

cempasuchitl - I think that's how to spell it. That's the name in Mexico

Gilly said...

Gorgeous orange colour! They grow here very easily, but last year went rather long and straggly, striving to get to some sun, I think!

Certain of the tagetes family are supposed to keep bugs off some sort of vegetable, but I forget which and what!!