Nicknamed “mums” or “chrysanths” the Chrysanthemum species is from the genus consisting of approximately 30 perennial flowering plants.
From the Asteraceae family, Chrysanthemums are native to Asia and the north-eastern part of Europe thus “mums” flower in late autumn; these plants need plenty of protection because by the time they are in bloom the wind and rain can easily damage their delicate petals at this time of year.
The name Chrysanthemum is derived from a combination of the Greek word for “gold” and “flower”. The genus of the chrysanthemum once included a great many more species, however, its list was split up to put the increasingly financially important florist's “chrysanths” into a different group, making them one of the most popular flowers around in the UK these days!
Chrysanthemums were first cultivated in Asia as long ago as 150 BC by the Chinese. As a flowering herb, they are renowned as one of the “Four Gentlemen in East Asian Art” thus, the Emperor adopted this beautiful flower as his official seal in Japan; ever since, there has been an annual celebration of its amazing beauty!
Modern chrysanthemums are much more glitzy than their wild relatives and occur in various forms: they can be daisy-like, decorative, pompons or buttons. Having been developed to contain many hybrids for horticultural purposes, there are thousands of cultivars of chrysanthemums including the traditional yellow, white, purple and lovely red ones.
Yellow or white chrysanthemum flowers are sometimes boiled to make a sweet tea drink in some parts of Asia and they have many medicinal uses too. For example, “mums” are used as a remedy for influenza.
Korean people drink a flavoured rice wine called “gukhwaju” with this flower included in the production and the leaves are steamed like vegetables in some Chinese restaurants in the Far East where the petals are often mixed with snake-meat to make a flavoursome aromatic soup.
Oddly enough, this beautiful flower is symbolic of death in many European countries and they are used at funerals in China, Japan and Korea with the white ones meaning lamentation and grief. The brilliant white colour portrays truth and honesty to many and they do provide a freshness to any funeral tribute.
Americans have often believed in the past that the chrysanthemum represents honesty, positivity and cheerfulness. The true chrysanthemum is for everyone in the world and the actual word “chrysanthemum” is one people have all heard many times but can any of you be sure you really know one when you see one?