What bright reflections of sunlight these little common marigolds are. They have been opening their buds since early May in my little patch, and if deadheaded regularly they will continue flowering all summer long. Hence its Latin title Calendula officianalis, inferring that if given the right circumstances, it can push forth flowers in every month of the calendar,
According to A Niewe Herball of 1578
‘It hath pleasant bright and shining yellow flowers, which do close at the setting downe of the sunne, and do spread and open againe at the sunne rising.’(in Mrs Grieve)
However others disagree and place a limit on opening times, from nine in the morning till three in the afternoon, whatever the timing, it does appear to enjoy basking in sunlight, and I have not as yet taken the time to observe this phenomena in greater detail.
Shakespeare included himself in the debate by indicating in the Winter’s Tale that ‘The Marigold that goes to bed wi’ th’ sun, And with him rises weeping.’
The sun-like orange flowers appear to exude a rather sticky aromatic substance which when the petals are placed in oil, can be preserved. One of the little Collins Nature Guides Herbs and Healing Plants places its aroma as ‘rather unpleasant.’ As usual with such pronouncements, I disagree, however I am beginning to realise I may have a strange idea of the scent that delights. The same little book gives its flowering season as from ‘June-Sep’; not in my neck of the woods I hasten to add.
Its uses are given as ‘Antiseptic and antifungal,’ it can be taken internally to ‘stimulate the liver’, and ‘externally as a salve to promote healing on cuts, grazes and spots’, plus ‘a gargle for mouth and throat infections.’ The active ingredients are given as ‘Essential oil, saponins, bitters, carotenoids,’ and ‘flavonoids.’ It appears that the flowers have been put to an assortment of uses, as ‘Formerly its flowers were used to give cheese a yellow colour.’(Mrs Grieve) and according to Macer’s Herbal (Mrs Grieve) one only has to look upon the flowers and it will ‘draw evil humours out of the head and strengthen the eyesight.’ It certainly fills my eyes with joy and removes any sign of an ‘evil humour.’ Macer adds ‘Ye odour of ye golde is good to smelle.’ That’s good, at least someone agrees with me.
Culpeper places the plants unsurprisingly under the influence of the Sun and under Leo. This seems to gain the agreement of all others. Cunningham suggests its gender is masculine of the element fire. He give its powers as ‘Protection, Prophetic Dreams, Legal Matters, Physic Powers’ and adds as an end note ‘If a girl touches the petals of the marigold with her bare feet, she will understand the language of the birds.’ They are probably shouting, ‘get your great stinky feet off the flower beds, you are squashing the flowers.’ Catherine Yronwode indicates the blossoms are lucky in money matters as ‘they resemble coins.’
Culpeper suggests that ‘the flowers either green or dried, are much used in possets, broths’ and as a ‘drink’; and a ‘comforter of the heart and spirits’. He also adds it can be used ‘to expel any malignant or pestilential quality which might annoy them.’ Good eh?, with marigold I can remove any ‘pestilential quality’ so as to comfort my heart and spirit. However he goes on to spoil the image by then mixing the powdered dried flowers with ‘hog’s grease, turpentine and rosin’ then ‘applied to the breast; which ‘strengthens and succours the heart infinitely in fevers, whether pestilential or not.’ Hog’s grease or no hog’s grease, a very useful buddy to have in the plant world.