Monday, November 30, 2009

Apparently, chrysanthemums don't have anything to do with Christmas


Nope. There is no connection whatsoever between these two similar sounding words, as much as I tried to find one to make this post more "seasonally appropriate". The word chrysanthemum was created by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus when the flower was first brought to Europe in the 17th century. He simply combined the Greek words chrysous, "golden" (the colour of the original flowers), and -anthemon, meaning "flower". Nothing to do with Christmas at all. But that's okay, because it is still November after all. For a few more hours anyway. And if you were born in the month of November, your birth flower is the chrysanthemum. Which is why we're talking about them in the first place. . .

Blooming in late summer and fall, these flowers, also commonly referred to as "mums", are native to Asia and Europe. Chrysanthemums were important to the ancient civilizations of both China and Japan and many of the attributes and symbolism attached to them remain with us today.
Confucius suggested they be used as an object of meditation, perhaps because of the perfect arrangement and repetition of their many petals. The Chinese also felt that the chrysanthemum promoted longevity and made wines and medicine from infusions of its leaves and petals. The dew collected from mums was supposed to be particularly effective in increasing the lifespan of those who ingested it. Additionally, the chrysanthemum flower is actually a powerful antiseptic and antibiotic and is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat high blood pressure and angina. As a result of these medicinal applications, the mum was also considered one of the four noble plants in China along with bamboo, plum, and orchid.


The Japanese were first introduced to the chrysanthemum in 400 A.D. by Zen Buddhist monks. It became a symbol of the Mikado and was displayed as a sixteen petaled mum made to look like the Rising Sun. To this day, the Japanese consider the orderly unfolding of a chrysanthemum's petals to represent perfection.
It is the national flower of Japan and symbolizes the Japanese Emperor. In many parts of Asia, the flower's petals are boiled in order to make a sweet drink known as chrysanthemum tea. It is believed that this tea has many medicinal uses including curing influenza.


In many European countries, Italy among them, the chrysanthemum is a symbol of death and is used for funerals or on graves. However, because the chrysanthemum resembles its close cousin the mugwort weed, which is often called the wild chrysanthemum, many florists do not like to use the flower in arrangements. The opposite seems to be true in America where the chrysanthemum is seen more often as positive and cheerful. They certainly are abundant in florist shops and garden centers this time of year, and undoubtedly graced many a Thanksgiving table and made appearances as innumerable hostess gifts on that day.


Traditional books about the language of flowers include the following meanings for the mum: cheerfulness, you're a wonderful friend, rest; loveliness, abundance, wealth and longevity. At celebrations, according to the website teleflora.com, a single petal of this November birth flower placed at the bottom of a wine glass will encourage a long and healthy life.

Now, back to the Christmas connection I tried so hard to find. A wreath! One lonely wreath decorated with sprigs of berries and dried chrysanthemum blossoms and tied up with a chartreuse satin ribbon. A rare find and an unconventional combination of colors and materials that finds November's birth flower on a symbol of a December holiday more commonly covered in poinsettias and pine cones. What do you think? Is a chrysanthemum wreath for you?

Image sources top to bottom: chinese brush art painting at Rene Moase Art, painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir, photo by keylimepie, painting by Marianne North at kew.org, photo by Joe Sala, painting by Vincent VanGogh, wreath photo at goodhousekeeping.com

8 comments:

maison21 said...

lovely post as usual, though i always thought the flower was named after ME. ;-)

Melanie said...

I love the paintings and I love the wreath. I just think you do what you love and be done with it:) That is my thought. LOL

Carol Ann said...

Love the wreath, love anything different from everyone elses decor...makes life more interesting

pk said...

Very interesting post - learned a lot that I never knew about chrysanthemums! I think the wreath is pretty and agree with Carol Ann - different is good. :-)

pk @ Room Remix

Jack said...

I love mums! I like the wreath. I think burgundy mums and some Christmas tree greens would make a beautiful wreath.

Janet said...

Oh jeez. I didn't know my son was logged into GMail. That would be my comment above. Duh!

Love Where You Live said...

Love the wreath!!
cheers, -susan

lyndacot said...

Love the wreath...great looking!!!