"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Midwinter Mums (4 of 6)

Midwinter Mums (4 of 6)

From “Chrysanthemum” in History of the World in 100 Plants by Simon Barnes:

“The chrysanthemum has a mixed reputation. In a number of European countries — France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Croatia — it’s mostly for funerals. In England it’s ever-so-slightly absurd: altogether too florid a flower. In East Asia it’s a flower that strikes awe. All over the world it’s also a plant of power and significance. It is the source of potent insecticides, telling the story of rising populations over the past century and summing up one of the great dilemmas of the century to come….

“The chrysanthemum is native to East Asia, where it is held in higher regard… but now we come to one of those problems of names that please the precise minds of taxonomists while spreading confusion through the rest of us….

“The genus
Chrysanthemum belongs to the family of daisies, or Asteraceae, which contains more than 1,500 genera. The florists’ chrysanthemum used to belong, rationally enough, to the genus Chrysanthemum, then it was kicked out, and assigned another genus. Then it was put back in again, at least by some, but classification is still a contentious issue, serious enough if you are interested in the way life operates. The genus Chrysanthemum includes, it’s usually agreed, species that not only have big showy flowers but also powerful insecticidal properties. This includes the species Chrysanthemum pyrethrum, which is referred to informally, along with related species with a similar property, as pyrethrum. If you’ve ever been in a room with a burning mosquito coil you have felt the benefit of pyrethrum.”

From “Scholiast” by Philip Whalen in The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen:

Regards the chrysanthemums
Stalks flat on the ground
Flowers twisting the tips
Past the roof shadow

A honeycomb
A hornet’s nest
Significant once, as a pattern —
But a theory of progress?

A constant explosion produces all shapes
Quiet fringed yellow
Burning — and the bush
Utterly consumed!


This is the fourth of six posts featuring mum varieties from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. The previous posts are Midwinter Mums (1 of 6), Midwinter Mums (2 of 6), and Midwinter Mums (3 of 6).

Thanks for taking a look!


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