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The Chameleon Of Flowers: Mum’s The Word

The Chrysanthemum, commonly referred to as “Mum”, has evolved from an ancient Chinese remedy plant to the corsage on every high school girl’s wrist at Homecoming dances and every species in between. Now, one must react with a degree of incredulousness when presented with a lineup of the many breeds of Mums. Chrysanthemums were discovered in the 15th Century B. in ancient China.

Then, they were simply a flowering herb cultivated for healing purposes, used to relieve headaches. In fact, their native city was named Chu-Hsein, which translated means “Chrysanthemum City”. In the 8th Century C., Japan was introduced to the flower, and the flower was initiated into the Emperor‘s official seal.

Even today, there is a festival called the “Festival of Happiness” which celebrates this beautiful flower. Since its inception into daily life as both a herbal remedy and an ornamental delight, the Chrysanthemum has evolved both in its physical nature and in its uses. It can appear as a small, button-like bloom, or as a giant spider-like flower, with petals creeping out to the size of a Frisbee. It can appear in a variety of colors, including the traditional yellow, and also red, white, and purple. Its leaves bear a resemblance to a close and unwelcome cousin -- the mugwort weed. Perhaps its only truly unfavorable characteristic, this attribute causes some gardeners to stray from including this plant in their foliage. However, none can deny the beauty of its blooms. The Chrysanthemum also offers culinary uses. Its blooms are boiled in hot water to make a sweet tea in parts of Asia. This tea, in addition to its delightful flavor, offers medicinal uses as well.

It is said to aid in recovery from influenza. With the current outbreak of influenza in the United States, perhaps North America could benefit from adopting this tea into our daily routine as well. The leaves of the plant are also used in certain stir-fry dishes and offer a unique and piquant flavor. This many-faceted plant also has one more benefit to offer -- a natural pesticide. When the contents of the seeds are extracted and applied to crops as a powder or additive to water, it proves to be an effective insecticide. The natural elements contained in the seeds attack the nervous systems of all insects and also inhibit female mosquito’s ability to bite. This form of insecticide proves to be harmless to plants and also much less harmful to other mammals than chemical insecticides. With so much to offer, the Chrysanthemum has been and continues to be a staple in many gardens.


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