The Marigold Flower
Marigolds are one of the most beautiful flowers in the plant kingdom. They can be grown easily and have the distinct reputation of blossoming all round the summer.
They complete their life cycle annually and are the major attraction of any garden. The natural beauty of marigolds is appealing to the masses and it even has a unique charm to itself.
Not only are they an object of beauty, they have various other uses including religious.
Marigold belongs to the genus Tagetes. A total 56 species of marigolds belong to this particular genus. Like any other scientific name, marigold’s nomenclature follows the rules of ICBN i.e. International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. It is an angiosperm belonging to the division of “Magnoliophyta”.
The specific class of the flower is “Magnoliopsida”. Marigold flowers belong to the “Asteraceae” family of “Aesterales” order. The genus Tagetes includes African, Mexican and French marigolds.
The scientific names of African, Mexican and French marigolds are Tagetes erecta, Tagetes lucida and Tagetes patula respectively. Marsh marigold is scientifically known as Caltha palustris.
The name “Tagetes” is derived from that of Etruscan Tages. Marigold, as is commonly known in the English Language, derives its origin from “Mary’s Gold”. The word “Mary” is probably a reference to the virgin while “gold” refers to the color of the flower.
Earlier, it was simply known as “golde”. According to some biologists, “Tagetes” refers to a Roman deity Tages, who originally is believed to be an Etruscan god of prophecy. History says the Romans adopted him as the son or grandson of Jupiter in due course of time.
The specific name i.e. the second word in the scientific name “lucida” is an indication of the bright orange colored flowers. Similarly, “patula” is a reference to the yellow petals of the flower, blotched with red and “erecta” indicates the stout branching with yellow to orange head flowers.
Marigold is a native of Southern USA and Mexican regions. Some biologists differ to cite the origin of the flower to Argentina in South America. In the early 1960’s, Senator Dirksen of Illinois made severe attempts to make marigold the national flower.
Description and Characteristics
The African marigolds are the taller varieties and grow erect up to three feet in height. They flower from midsummer to frost and yield large and double flowers. The flowers are immensely larger compared to the other varieties and shaped like a globe.
They may be as wide as 5 inches in diameter and range from colors like yellow to orange. One of the most important aspects about this variety is that they are an excellent bedding plant.
They take more time for flowering as compared to the other varieties. Sometimes, African marigolds are also referred to as the American marigolds.
The French marigolds are small bushes that grow up to around 5 to 18 inches in height. This variety blooms from spring until frost. The flowers of this variety are variously colored- red, orange or yellow.
In some cases, a bicolor pattern of red and orange is also observed. Size wise, the flowers are smaller, measuring 2 inches across. They are considered idealistic to edge flowerbeds and to use in mass plantings.
The plants have better survival chances than their African counterparts in the rainy season. The flowers are even known to do well when planted in containers or window boxes.
Marigold flowers are blesses with the title of “Herb of the Sun”. Growing marigold flowers is a sign of passion and creativity. According to the Welsh belief, marigolds are supposed to prevent storms in the morning.
They have often been used as a symbolism of love charms and been used in creating beautiful wedding garlands. It is believed that marigold water has the power to induce psychic visions of fairies when applied on the eyelids.
Some tribes put marigold flowers beneath their pillows to induce prophetic or psychic dreams.
Cultivation and Care
Marigold plants propagate through seeds. One of the most sought after question is what do marigolds need to grow! Growing marigolds is not an arduous task. They do not need cultivation but some precautions should be taken while growing marigolds from seed.
The soil should be weed free and the seeds should be planted in an area with optimum sun exposure. Growing African marigolds require abundant supply of fertilizers. Marigolds grow best in damp to wet soil. The seeds take about two to three weeks for proper germination.
They require sunlight in abundant amount for proper growth. Marigolds have either a musky, pungent or no odor depending on the variety being bred. The scentless ones are known to ward off insects, pests and nematodes.
Marigold is a multi-purpose herb.
- It is applied as an ointment to the skin.
- It is taken as a tincture or tea to keep mouth fresh.
- Marigold soap is believed to contain a number of essential oils that repel insects.
- Desert marigold i.e. Baileya multiradiata is known to have medicinal values and is even used in rehabilitation of pioneer land.
- The flowers have religious importance and are used in making beautiful garlands to offer to the deities.
- They are also used in the preparation of yellow dyes by boiling. The pigments in the leaves are often extracted and used in coloring the food for humans and livestock.
- They are abundantly used in companion planting for many vegetables like tomato, eggplant, chili pepper, tobacco and potato.
- Marigold lemonii is widely used to encircle plant beds in order to keep the animals away.
- Mexican mint marigold was used previously be the Aztecs to perform their rituals. It is even believed to provide psychotropic effects when mixed with Nicotiana rustica.
- Marigold even finds applications in the treatment of stomach upsets, ulcers, menstrual period problems, eye-infections, inflammations etc.
Marigolds are known to cause some minor side-effects when consumed by combining with other drugs and should be used carefully.
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