WTF Fun Fact 12989 – The History of Mums

Chrysanthemums, more commonly referred to as simply “mums,” are native to a few different north Asian and European regions. But when it comes to the flowers we know today, the history of mums begins in China. And it started thousands of years ago.

The interesting history of mums

Chrysanthemums have been cultivated in China for over 3000 years. Some of the earliest texts we have mention mum being grown as a flowering herb. That means their cultivation probably goes back much further, though we can’t be sure just how far.

Even Confucius’ 6th/5th-century BCE writings refer to “the chrysanthemum with its yellow glory.” A powerful flower, they were also known as “the golden flower.” This indicates that most early mums were yellow.

According to the UK’s National Chrysanthemum Society, the present-day mums we know began as a cross between two Chinese forms called chrysanthemum Indicum and chrysanthemum Sinese. They also note that “it was not until about AD350 that anything approaching a definite variety was involved. This was a bloom of small incurved form and at that time was recognised as the only good type of chrysanthemum, an opinion still shared by many at the present day. However, the Chinese were very reluctant to let the chrysanthemum leave their country but in AD386 it did arrive in Japan and it is to the Japanese that much is owed for the development of this wonderfully versatile flower.”

Spreading love for chrysanthemums

Mums then became very popular in Japan. And “in the ninth century AD Emperor Uda founded the Imperial Gardens where various types of chrysanthemums were steadily developed.” They kept their cultivation methods a secret, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that mums made it out of the East and into continental Europe, then to Britain.

At the same time, the chrysanthemum was proclaimed the national flower of Japan.

Despite mum cultivation being a later hobby in Europe, earlier botanist-travelers knew about the flower. Still, it wasn’t until 1827 that “seed was successfully produced in Europe by a retired French officer, Captain Bernet.” Many people had tried, but he was the first to succeed.

The history of mums intertwined with other flowers

If you get your mums mixed up with other similar flowers, don’t feel bad. They’ve been bred into many forms. Sometimes people bred them for hardiness in new climatic zones, other times they bred them for size, color, or leaf shape.

Mums were introduced in America in 1841, where they took on different meanings in different places (for example, Texas’ “homecoming mums”). In other countries, they are considered funeral flowers.

Over the last century and a half mums have been further bred to be hardy in different types of weather and soil, which is why you can find a few different varieties at your local garden center today,

But despite their ubiquity in America in the fall, they as a testament to Chinese horticulture.  WTF fun facts

Source: “History of the Chrysanthemum” — National Chrysanthemum Society (UK)

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