October's birthday flower, the vibrant marigold, is a Mediterranean native plant and has been prized for both its beauty and versatility. They come in a range of colors including white, gold and yellow; however, probably the most popular is bright orange. There are two types of marigolds, tagetes and calendula. One big difference between the two is that the calendula is edible. The calendula is also believed to be a useful herbal remedy for treating minor abrasions and even chapped lips. Contrarily, most tagetes marigolds are toxic.
Calendulas grow as single, double and semi-double blooms and can reach up to 4 inches wide. Both are very easy to grow, which makes them a popular choice for all levels of gardeners.
Marigolds in History
Marigolds have been used for a wide variety of purposes throughout history. Ancient Greek and Roman cultures, as well as Indian and Middle Eastern cultures have all used marigolds for everything from treating various health ailments, dying fabrics, creating cosmetics and seasoning foods. It seems there is no need these adaptable flowers can’t fill. Marigolds are also one of the hardiest fall flowering plants.
Colors and Symbolism
- With its intense color, it’s no wonder the marigold is the symbol of passion and creativity.
- In Medieval England, the flowers and leaves of the marigold flowers, combined with ground eggshells, were added to heated ale and drank as a treatment for the plague.
- In Asia, garlands of marigold flowers are used to decorate religious statues, and during funerals and wedding ceremonies.
- During Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos celebration colorful garlands of marigold flowers adorn the graves of deceased relatives and elaborate altars constructed in the many homes. These altars are filled with favorite photos, toys and food items of the deceased. It is believed that the scent of the flowers help guide the spirits from the cemetery to the altars. The yellow and orange marigolds symbolize the sun and light.
Fun Facts about Marigolds
- Marigold flowers are edible and are often used in salads or as a substitute for the much more expensive saffron spice. The leaves of the marigold plant are also edible, but not as tasty.
- The same antioxidant carotenoids that contribute to the marigold’s captivating color may also provide positive health benefits for humans, such as possibly lowering the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer.
- Another great use for the marigold is as a natural insect repellent. It’s strong scent helps keep mosquitos and aphids away from vegetable gardens, and placing a potted plant near a window will keep flies and mosquitos out of your home.