Chrysanthemum, more commonly known as the mum

The chrysanthemum (more commonly known as the mum) is a flowering perennial plant of the genus Chrysanthemum in the daisy family (Asteraceae).

The genus has been split into several genera, such as Dendranthema, Leucanthemum and Tanacetum. But there is a growing consensus to merge back Dendranthema into Chrysanthemum.

Historically, chrysanthemums were cultivated in China as a flowering herb as far back as the 15th century BCE. An ancient Chinese city was named Chu-Hsien, meaning “chrysanthemum city”. The flower was introduced into Japan probably in the 8th century CE, and the Emperor adopted the flower as his official seal. There is a “Festival of Happiness” in Japan that celebrates the flower.

The flower was brought to the Western World in the 17th century. It was named by Carolus Linnaeus from the Greek prefix chrys-, which means golden (the color of the original flowers), and -anthemon, meaning flower.

Ornamental uses

Modern chrysanthemums are much showier than their ancient relatives. The flowers occur in various forms, and can be daisy-like, decorative, pompons or buttons. This genus contains many hybrids developed for horticultural purposes. The most common color of chrysanthemums is the traditional yellow however other colors are available, such as white, purple, and red.

In some counties of Europe, chrysanthemums are symbolic of death and are only used for funerals or on graves. In the United States, the flower is usually seen as more positive and cheerful.

Food uses

In some parts of Asia, chrysanthemum flowers are boiled to make a sweet drink. The resulting beverage is known simply as “chrysanthemum tea” and has many medicinal uses, including an aid in recovery from influenza.

The leaves of several species are edible, and in particular C. coronarium (the crown daisy or garland chrysanthemum) is grown commercially in East Asia as a leaf vegetable, known as tung ho or shingiku. In China, the greens are often stir-fried simply with garlic and dried chili peppers. The color of the cooked greens is dark, their texture dense and mucilaginous, and their flavor fragrant and complex.