MARIGOLD. This name has been given to several plants, of which the following are the best known: Calendula officinalis, the pot-marigold; Tagetes erecta, the African marigold; T. patula, the French marigold; and Chrysanthemum segetum, the corn marigold. All these belong to the order Compositae; but Caltha palustris, the marsh marigold, belongs to the order Ranunculaceae.
The first-mentioned is the familiar garden plant with large orange-coloured blossoms, and is probably not known in a wild state. There are now many fine garden varieties of it. The florets are unisexual, the " ray " florets being female, the " disk " florets male. This and the double variety have been in cultivation for at least three hundred years, as well as a proliferous form, C. prolifera, or the " fruitful marigolde " of Gerard (Herball, p. 602), in which small flower-heads proceed from beneath the circumference of the flower. The figure of " the greatest double marigold," C. multiftora maxima, given by Gerard (loc. cit. p. 600) is larger than most specimens now seen, being 3 in. in diameter. He remarks of " the marigolde " that it is called Calendula " as it is to be scene to flower in the calends of almost euerie moneth." It was supposed to have several specific virtues, but they are non-existent. " The marigold, that goes to bed wi' the Sun," is mentioned by Shakespeare, Winter's Tale, iv. 3.
Tagetes palula, and T. erecta, the French and African marigolds, are natives of Mexico, and are equally familiar garden plants, having been long in cultivation. Gerard figures five varieties of Flos africanus, of the single and double kind (loc. cit., p. 609). Besides the above species the following have been introduced later, T. lucida, T. signata, also from Mexico, and T. tenuifolia from Peru.
Chrysanthemum segetum, the yellow corn marigold, is indigenous to Great Britain, and is frequent in corn-fields in most parts of England. When dried it has been employed as hay. It is also used in Germany for dyeing yellow. Gerard observes that in his day " the stalke and leaues of Corne Marigolde, as Dioscorides saith, are eaten as other potherbes are."
Caltha palustris, the marsh marigold, or king-cups, the " winking Mary-buds " of Shakespeare (Cymb., ii. 3), is a common British plant in marshy meadows and beside water. It bears smooth heart-shaped leaves, and flowers with a golden yellow calyx but no corolla, blossoming in March and April. The flower-buds preserved in salted vinegar are a good substitute for capers. A double-flowered variety is often cultivated, and is occasionally found wild.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)