Field of Science

Know your genera - Lesson 4: Chrysanthemum

More good news! You know yet another scientific name of a plant: Chrysanthemum. But, it isn't the plant you think it is. Those darned taxonomists figured out that chrysanthemums (chryos- Greek for gold; anthemon - Greek for flower) did not form a natural group and various species have been segregated into about 10 different genera.
The familiar "florists' chrysanthemums" pictured here and so popular this time of year are now in the genus Dendranthema (dendro = woody, a reference to their woody annual stems). Like many other people, the Phactor learned to call the Shasta or ox-eye daisy Chrysanthemum lecanthemum, which is kind of fun to say, except it meant "goldflower-whiteflower". Leucanthemum (leuco = white) is their new genus. Other former chrysanthemums are the pyrethrum daisies (feverfew - long known as a remedy for fevers, and as a source of the insecticide of the same name) are now placed in Tanacetum. And what of the real chrysanthemums? Of the 300-400 species that used to be in this genus, now there are two, both annuals of the Mediterranean region.

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