Saturday, 10 November 2012

Chrysanthemums (Mums) in the year 2012

The Chrysanthemum is the flower of November. Because it blooms in the cold autumn air and foretells the coming of winter it has come to symbolize the virtue to withstand all adversities.
The name Chrysanthemum is derived from the Greek words chrysos (gold) and anthos (flower). Genus Chrsanthemum is from the family of Asteraceae .  There are approximately thirty species of perennial flowering plants in the family Asteraceae which is native to Asia and NE Europe.

We all love chrysanthemums, especially since the present day chrysanthemums are so magnificent, far showier than their ancestral wild cousins.  The flower occurs in various forms: they can be pompous, decorative, daisy-like, or buttons.

Chrysanthemums are generally of two basic groups: The Garden Hardy variety and the Exhibition variety.
The Garden hardy mum are new perennials and as the name suggests, are a sturdy bunch, capable of being wintered over in the ground in most Northern latitudes.  They are capable of producing an abundance of small blooms with the least assistance and are able to withstand adverse weather conditions such as wind and rain. .
The Exhibition varieties, though spectacular, are considered to be frail and need a lot of painstaking care. However the resulting disbudded blooms and spray forms such as Fans, Hanging Baskets, Topiary, Bonsai, Thousand Bloom and Cascades, to name a few,  make the effort all worthwhile.

Aside from decorating our homes and gardens, chrysanthemum flowers have a culinary function.   The chrysanthemum leaves are often boiled or steamed and served as a side dish of greens in Chinese cuisine.  Sometimes the petals of chrysanthemum are mixed with thick snake meat to augment a soup’s aroma.  The white and yellow flowers of the species C. morifolium are boiled to make tea, known as the “chrysanthemum tea” in many parts of Asia.  The chrysanthemum tea is accredited with many medicinal usages including aiding one’s recovery from influenza.  In Korea, Gukhawaju is a rice wine flavoured with chrysanthemum flowers.

Did you know that the Pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium) can be used as a natural source of insecticide? The pulverized flowers contain the active ingredient pyrethrins, found in the seed cases, once these are extracted, they can then be sold in the form of an oleoresin.  Applied in the form of a powder or as a suspension in oil or water, the Pyrethrins attack the nervous system of all types of insects and also serve to inhibit the female mosquitoes from biting.  In lesser dosage, they can be an effective insect repellent.  Keep in mind though that they are harmful to fish, but less toxic to mammals and birds than many synthetic insecticides, except in consumer airborne backyard applications. They are considered to be safest insecticides for use around food and being biodegradable when exposed to light, they are also considered to be an eco-friendly product. Finally, Chrysanthemum plants are known to reduce indoor air pollution.

Throughout the ages, many poems and stories have been created about the highly regarded Chrysanthemum.  Here's "The Last Chrysanthemum" by Thomas Hardy:

“Why should this flower delay so long 
To show its tremulous plumes?
Now is the time of plaintive robin-song,
When flowers are in their tombs.

Through the slow summer, when the sun
Called to each frond and whorl
That all he could for flowers was being done,
Why did it not uncurl?

It must have felt that fervid call
Although it took no heed,
Waking but now, when leaves like corpses fall,
And saps all retrocede.

Too late its beauty, lonely thing,
The season's shine is spent,
Nothing remains for it but shivering
In tempests turbulent.

Had it a reason for delay,
Dreaming in witlessness
That for a bloom so delicately gay
Winter would stay its stress?

- I talk as if the thing were born
With sense to work its mind;
Yet it is but one mask of many worn
By the Great Face behind.”

The End.

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