Our first plant of the month for the year 2019 is a modest and usually ignored wildflower. It is small and inconspicuous, but nevertheless a charming flower: the Field Marigold. It is one of the first flowers to bloom in the winter, coloring sunny areas in yellow-orange colors.
The Field Marigold is an herbaceous plant, up to 20 cm tall. It belongs to the Asteraceae family – in this family the flowers are dense in a flowering head that looks like a single flower. In the center of the Calendula inflorescence there are disc florets – small tubular flowers. Surrounding them are peripheral ray florets – small ligulate flowers. Just like a miniscule sunflower or a daisy.
The Marigold’s fruit is also interesting: the seeds can have different shapes within a single inflorescence. Some are ring-shaped or bow-shaped, other are small puffed balls and others – elongated like a cat’s claw.
The combination of the different shapes gives the entire fruit a look of a cat’s paw with drawn claws, hence its Hebrew name – the cat’s claws. The different shaped seeds are dispersed to different distances using different methods, thus improving the plant’s decedents survival abilities (“do not place all the eggs in one basket”).
The Field Marigold has a long blooming period: they start blooming in December, and can be found blooming until April. The Marigold leaves are simple, elongated and covered with glandular hair. They have a typical and unforgettable smell.
A relative of the Field Marigold found in Europe is the Common Marigold (Calendula officinalis). It is known as an important folk-medicine plant, and shares many traits with the Field Marigold. Both species are used in common medicine. They are used externally – as treatment for skin problems, such as bites, wounds and varicose veins, and for sprains; and also internally – the leaves (dried or fresh) are used for detoxifying, against infections and fevers, and also as antiphlogistic, antiseptic and antispasmodic remedies.
The Field Marigold is very common in Israel, from the Mediterranean region to the desert, usually in disturbed habitats. The flowers’ color is orange-yellow, but sometimes the central disc flowers are brown. The brown color variant is more common in the south, and was considered a separate species in the past – Calendula aegyptiaca.
The Field Marigold are blooming these days all over the Botanical Garden. Look for them in the lawns of the America section and at the end of the South Africa section. On the way, you can see a variety of plants from all over the world!
Written by: Yael Orgad, January 2019