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Marigolds are another plant you can't get wrong. They belong to the Asteraceae family, like the Daisies, Asters and Chrysanthemums, coming originally from North and South America. They can grow up to 5 feet, depending on the type. The colours are typically in yellow, orange and white, but some have other deeper and prettier shades. Just like the daisies and the gerberas, they have composite flowers with the typical ray florets and disk florets and they share their secret.
There are two types: M. tagetes and M. calendula (also known as the Pot Marigold), both with distinct differences. This page is about the Tagetes type.
The name came from 'Mary's Gold' which refers to the Virgin Mary. Calendula comes from the fact that they seemed to flower all year long, and Targetes comes from the name 'Targes' who was the son of Jupiter. The 'Pot' variety comes from days gone by when they were used as flavour and a source of food for meals cooked in pots.
They may be annuals or perennials and can grow in most soils as long as they have good drainage.
The flowers produce nectar which attracts butterflies, so they are excellent in butterfly gardens. They are also used as herbal medicines. They are useful in diseases caused by inflammatory processes, fungal, bacterial infections and may be used as an ointment or lotion for a wide range of complaints from sunburn to dry or irritated skin complaints eg. eczema and mosquito bites. They are a well known requisite for herbalists and cooks. They add colour and taste to meals. They are also used to kill certain garden pests and some forms may be toxic to humans as well. Always check the labels before planting them to be used as an edible food source.
Photo Credit: Dori.
Tagetes patula (the French Marigold), grows from about 6 inches to 2 feet in height.
Tagetes patula again.
Tagetes erecta (African or Aztec type). Stunning beauty.
An interesting fact: The flowers of Tagetes erecta are used as food colouring in pasta, vegetable oil, margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressing, baked foods, confectionery, dairy products, ice cream, yoghurt, citrus juices and mustard. However, this is only in European countries.
In the USA, they can only be used in poultry food. This is a huge difference between what Americans and Europeans are allowed to eat. The chemical in question is carotenoid lutein.
Tagetes minuta. The wild type.
About growing Tagetes: