Chrysanthemums (), sometimes called mums or chrysanths, are flowering plants of the genus Chrysanthemum in the family Asteraceae. They are native to Asia and northeastern Europe. Most species originate from East Asia and the center of diversity is in China. There are countless horticultural varieties and cultivars.
The name "chrysanthemum" is derived from the Ancient Greek: χρυσός chrysos (gold) and Ancient Greek: ἄνθεμον anthemon (flower).
The genus once included more species, but was split several decades ago into several genera, putting the economically important florist's chrysanthemums in the genus Dendranthema. The naming of the genera has been contentious, but a ruling of the International Botanical Congress in 1999 changed the defining species of the genus to Chrysanthemum indicum, restoring the florist's chrysanthemums to the genus Chrysanthemum.
The other species previously included in the narrow view of the genus Chrysanthemum are now transferred to the genus Glebionis. The other genera separate from Chrysanthemum include Argyranthemum, Leucanthemopsis, Leucanthemum, Rhodanthemum, and Tanacetum.
Historical painting of chrysanthemums from the New International Encyclopedia
Wild Chrysanthemum taxa are herbaceous perennial plants or subshrubs. They have alternately arranged leaves divided into leaflets with toothed or occasionally smooth edges. The compound inflorescence is an array of several flower heads, or sometimes a solitary head. The head has a base covered in layers of phyllaries. The simple row of ray florets are white, yellow or red; many horticultural specimens have been bred to bear many rows of ray florets in a great variety of colors. The disc florets of wild taxa are yellow. The fruit is a ribbed achene. Chrysanthemums, also known as ‘mums’, are one of the prettiest varieties of perennials that start blooming early in the autumn. This is also known as favorite flower for the month of November.
Chrysanthemums were first cultivated in China as a flowering herb as far back as the 15th century BC. Over 500 cultivars had been recorded by the year 1630. The plant is renowned as one of the Four Gentlemen in Chinese and East Asian art. The plant is particularly significant during the Double Ninth Festival.
Chrysanthemum cultivation began in Japan during the Nara and Heian periods (early 8th to late 12th centuries), and gained popularity in the Edo period (early 17th to late 19th century). Many flower shapes, colours, and varieties were created. The way the flowers were grown and shaped also developed, and chrysanthemum culture flourished. The Imperial Seal of Japan is a chrysanthemum and the institution of the monarchy is also called the Chrysanthemum Throne. A number of festivals and shows take place throughout Japan in autumn when the flowers bloom. Chrysanthemum Day (菊の節句 Kiku no Sekku) is one of the five ancient sacred festivals. It is celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month. It was started in 910, when the imperial court held its first chrysanthemum show.
Chrysanthemums entered American horticulture in 1798 when Colonel John Stevens imported a cultivated variety known as 'Dark Purple' from England. The introduction was part of an effort to grow attractions within Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Different colors of chrysanthemum x morifolium
Example of a Japanese bonsai
Modern cultivated chrysanthemums are showier than their wild relatives. The flower heads occur in various forms, and can be daisy-like or decorative, like pompons or buttons. This genus contains many hybrids and thousands of cultivars developed for horticultural purposes. In addition to the traditional yellow, other colors are available, such as white, purple, and red. The most important hybrid is Chrysanthemum × morifolium (syn. C. × grandiflorum), derived primarily from C. indicum, but also involving other species.
Over 140 cultivars of chrysanthemum have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (confirmed 2017).
Chrysanthemums are divided into two basic groups, garden hardy and exhibition. Garden hardy mums are new perennials capable of wintering in most northern latitudes. Exhibition varieties are not usually as sturdy. Garden hardies are defined by their ability to produce an abundance of small blooms with little if any mechanical assistance, such as staking, and withstanding wind and rain. Exhibition varieties, though, require staking, overwintering in a relatively dry, cool environment, and sometimes the addition of night lights.
The exhibition varieties can be used to create many amazing plant forms, such as large disbudded blooms, spray forms, and many artistically trained forms, such as thousand-bloom, standard (trees), fans, hanging baskets, topiary, bonsai, and cascades.
Chrysanthemum blooms are divided into 10 different bloom forms by the US National Chrysanthemum Society, Inc., which is in keeping with the international classification system. The bloom forms are defined by the way in which the ray and disk florets are arranged. Chrysanthemum blooms are composed of many individual flowers (florets), each one capable of producing a seed. The disk florets are in the center of the bloom head, and the ray florets are on the perimeter. The ray florets are considered imperfect flowers, as they only possess the female productive organs, while the disk florets are considered perfect flowers, as they possess both male and female reproductive organs.
Irregular incurves are bred to produce a giant head called an ogiku. The disk florets are concealed in layers of curving ray florets that hang down to create a 'skirt'. Regular incurves are similar, but usually with smaller blooms and a dense, globular form. Intermediate incurve blooms may have broader florets and a less densely flowered head.
In the reflex form, the disk florets are concealed and the ray florets reflex outwards to create a mop-like appearance. The decorative form is similar to reflex blooms, but the ray florets usually do not radiate at more than a 90° angle to the stem.
The pompon form is fully double, of small size, and very globular in form. Single and semidouble blooms have exposed disk florets and one to seven rows of ray florets.
In the anemone form, the disk florets are prominent, often raised and overshadowing the ray florets. The spoon-form disk florets are visible and the long, tubular ray florets are spatulate.
In the spider form, the disk florets are concealed, and the ray florets are tube-like with hooked or barbed ends, hanging loosely around the stem. In the brush and thistle variety, the disk florets may be visible.
In Japan a form of bonsai chrysanthemum was developed over the centuries. The cultivated flower has a life-span of about five years and can be kept in miniature size. Another method is to use pieces of dead wood and the flower grows over the back along the wood to give the illusion from the front that the miniature tree blooms.
Yellow or white chrysanthemum flowers of the species C. morifolium are boiled to make a tea in some parts of Asia. The resulting beverage is known simply as chrysanthemum tea (菊 花 茶, pinyin: júhuā chá, in Chinese). In Korea, a rice wine flavored with chrysanthemum flowers is called gukhwaju (국화주).
Chrysanthemum leaves are steamed or boiled and used as greens, especially in Chinese cuisine. The flowers may be added to dishes such as mixian in broth, or thick snakemeat soup (蛇羹) to enhance the aroma. Small chrysanthemums are used in Japan as a sashimi garnish.
Pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum [or Tanacetum] cinerariaefolium) is economically important as a natural source of insecticide. The flowers are pulverized, and the active components, called pyrethrins, which occur in the achenes, are extracted and sold in the form of an oleoresin. This is applied as a suspension in water or oil, or as a powder. Pyrethrins attack the nervous systems of all insects, and inhibit female mosquitoes from biting. In sublethal doses they have an insect repellent effect. They are harmful to fish, but are far less toxic to mammals and birds than many synthetic insecticides. They are not persistent, being biodegradable, and also decompose easily on exposure to light. Pyrethroids such as permethrin are synthetic insecticides based on natural pyrethrum.
Persian powder is an example of industrial product of Chrysanthemum insecticide.
Chrysanthemum plants have been shown to reduce indoor air pollution by the NASA Clean Air Study.
Cultural significance and symbolism
In some countries of Europe (e.g., France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Croatia), incurve chrysanthemums symbolize death and are used only for funerals or on graves, while other types carry no such symbolism; similarly, in China, Japan and Korea, white chrysanthemums symbolize adversity, lamentation and/or grief. In some other countries, they represent honesty. In the United States, the flower is usually regarded as positive and cheerful, with New Orleans as a notable exception.
In the Victorian language of flowers, the Chrysanthemum had several meanings. The Chinese Chrysanthemum meant cheerfulness, whereas the red Chrysanthemum stood for I Love, while the yellow Chrysanthemum symbolized slighted love.
- In Australia, the chrysanthemum is sometimes given to mothers for Mother's Day, which falls in May in the southern hemisphere's autumn, which is when the flower is naturally in season. Men may sometimes also wear it in their lapels to honour mothers. The flower was illustrated and described in the April 1893 edition of The Dawn.
- The chrysanthemum is the city flower of Kaifeng. The tradition of cultivating different varieties of chrysanthemums stretches all the way back 1600 years, and the scale reached a phenomenal level during the Song dynasty until its loss to the Jürchens in 1126. The city has held the Kaifeng Chrysanthemum Cultural Festival since 1983 (renamed China Kaifeng Chrysanthemum Cultural Festival in 1994). The event is the largest Chrysanthemum Festival in China, it has been a yearly feature since, taking place between 18 October and 18 November every year.
- The chrysanthemum is one of the "Four Gentlemen" (四君子) of China (the others being the plum blossom, the orchid, and bamboo). The chrysanthemum is said to have been favored by Tao Qian, an influential Chinese poet, and is symbolic of nobility. It is also one of the four symbolic seasonal flowers.
- A chrysanthemum festival is held each year in Tongxiang, near Hangzhou, China.
- Chrysanthemums are the topic in hundreds of poems of China.
- The "golden flower" referred to in the 2006 movie Curse of the Golden Flower is a chrysanthemum.
- "Chrysanthemum Gate" (jú huā mén 菊花门), often abbreviated as Chrysanthemum (菊花), is taboo slang meaning "anus" (with sexual connotations).
- An ancient Chinese city (Xiaolan Town of Zhongshan City) was named Ju-Xian, meaning "chrysanthemum city".
- The plant is particularly significant during the Chinese Double Ninth Festival.
- In Chinese culture, the chrysanthemum is a symbol of autumn and the flower of the ninth moon. People even drank chrysanthemum wine on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month in order to prolong their lives during the Han dynasty. It is a symbol of longevity because of its health-giving properties. Because of all of this, the flower was often worn on funeral attire.
Chrysanthemum shows have been traditionally held in many Japanese towns.
- In Japan, the chrysanthemum is a symbol of the Emperor and the Imperial family. In particular, a "chrysanthemum crest" (菊花紋章, kikukamonshō or kikkamonshō), i.e. a mon of chrysanthemum blossom design, indicates a link to the Emperor; there are more than 150 patterns of this design. Notable uses of and reference to the Imperial chrysanthemum include:
- The Imperial Seal of Japan, used by members of the Japanese Imperial family. In 1869, a two-layered, sixteen petal design was designated as the symbol of the Emperor. Princes used a simpler single-layer pattern.
- A number of formerly state-endowed shrines (官国弊社, kankokuheisha) have adopted a chrysanthemum crest; most notable of these is Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine.
- The Chrysanthemum Throne is the name given to the position of Japanese Emperor and the throne.
- The Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum is a Japanese honor awarded by the Emperor on the advice of the Japanese government.
- In Imperial Japan, small arms were required to be stamped with the Imperial Chrysanthemum, as they were considered the personal property of the Emperor.
- The city of Nihonmatsu, Japan hosts the "Nihonmatsu Chrysanthemum Dolls Exhibition" every autumn in historical ruin of Nihonmatsu Castle.
- The Nagoya Castle Chrysanthemum Competition started after the end of the Pacific War. The event at the castle has become a tradition for the city. With three categories, it is one of the largest events of its kind in the region by both scale and content. The first category is the exhibition of cultivated flowers. The second category is for bonsai flowers, which are combined with dead pieces of wood to give the illusion of miniature trees. The third category is the creation of miniature landscapes.
Korea has a number of flower shows that exhibit the chrysanthemum, such as the Masan Gagopa Chrysanthemum Festival.
Korean painting Chrysanthemums, Rock and Bird, 19th century
- The chrysanthemum is also the flower of November.
- Israel names a new fast-growing Chrysanthemum flower after Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, in a special gesture to mark the first visit of an Indian premier to the Jewish nation.
- The UK National Collection of hardy chrysanthemums is at Hill Close Gardens near Warwick.
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