Across a waste of moorland, bleak and bear,
A lonely bird is flying, calling low—
The last of all the feathered host to go,
And loth to leave still lingers, calling, there
Within my silent garden-passes, where
The flowers are withered that in summer blow,
I walk with murmuring ghosts, that to and fro
Sway gently in the chill November air;
When, lo! I mark a little way apart
The sovereign glory of this waning year
That now, alone, unheralded hath come,
In gorgeous robes — alas, my fickle heart
Forgets the dead, and laughs that she is here,
The royal queen of fall, Chrysanthemum.
“Chrysanthemum” by Albert Bigelow Paine (Rhymes by Two Friends, 1893)
Chrysanthemum was first cultivated as a flowering herb in China more than 3,000 years ago, and is a symbolic and therapeutic element of Chinese and East Asia traditions, culture and art.
Chinese scholars and poets frequently praise the chrysanthemum in ancient writings as a noble flower of elegance and strength, beautifully flowering during the cold days of autumn and early winter. It’s also designated as one of the Four Gentlemen, or Noble Ones, four plants depicted in Chinese art ‘bird and flower’ painting as far back as the Song dynasty (960 -1279), and later used by other artists in East Asia to represent the four seasons: orchid (spring); bamboo (summer); chrysanthemum (autumn); and plum blossom (winter).
Drinking chrysanthemum tea also dates back to the Chinese Song dynasty, and is still enjoyed today. It has a delicate floral aroma and light, refreshing taste, and is typically prepared by steeping dried flowers of Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum in hot water, with sugar often added, and sometimes wolfberries (goji). The teapot of chrysanthemum flowers is customarily refilled with hot water several times during tea drinking, lightening the flavor and potency of the tea with each serving. While drinking chrysanthemum tea is believed to have cleansing and special healing properties, its effectiveness is uncertain, and it can cause side effects in some people. Therefore, best to consult your doctor before indulging. If you are allergic to ragweed, pregnant or nursing, avoid chrysanthemum tea and any type of supplement containing the flower.
You’ll find more history of chrysanthemum as well as planting/gardening information, tips and resources on the National Chrysanthemum Society (USA) website.
Be Careful – Chrysanthemums are toxic to dogs, cats and horses (Learn more about toxic plants ASPCA website)
General informational resource: Wikipedia – Chrysanthemum
See Spring Flowers blooming – right before your eyes
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Football mums feature photo is courtesy of Erol Ahmed/StockSnap CC0
Chrysanthemum (1722-1735) Xian’e Changchun Album by Giuseppe Castiglione/Wikimedia PD Chrysanthemum tea photo courtesy of Ornella Binni/StockSnap CC0