Take a walk down Little India during this festive period and you can’t miss the garlands of orange and yellow flowers along the roadside flower stalls! These are Mexican marigold (Tagetes erecta) flowers - a relative of daisies and sunflowers. As their common name suggests, these herbaceous shrubs can be found throughout the oak-pine forests of Mexico. What seems to be a single flower is actually an inflorescence, made up of single-petalled ray florets around a disc of fertile disc florets. However, like many ornamental chrysanthemum varieties, these plants have been cultivated to produce a full head of ray florets, giving them a pom-pom appearance.
In Hindu culture, Mexican marigolds are believed to be auspicious, representing the sun and symbolising brightness and positivity. They are also associated with Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, who are considered an ideal couple in the Hindu pantheon. Because of this, marigolds are strung up with sweet-smelling flowers like jasmines and roses, and used for temple offerings, wedding ceremonies and festivals, as well as to brighten their homes to invite the Hindu Gods in.
These flowering annuals are also significant to the Mexican holiday, Día de Muertos ('Day of the Dead'), every 2nd November, when the bright colours and strong scent of these marigolds are said to help guide the souls of departed friends and family back to the homes of their loved ones. In other parts of the world, Mexican marigolds have been widely grown as ornamentals and bedding plants. Many farmers and home gardeners on the other hand, interplant marigolds with their crops, as these plants repel nematodes and pest insects.
Head down to the Flower Dome during the Deepavali weekend and spot these warm blossoms at the Flower Field!
Written by: Hazri Boey, Senior Horticulturist (Gardens Operations)
Hazri not only surrounds himself with plants at work; he has an abundant collection at home too! Having nurtured a keen interest in nature since young, he might have gone on to become a zookeeper caring for owls or sloths had it not been for his plant identification talent!