RSS Feed

A Bright Spot in the Early Spring Garden

copper canyon daisy As with many plants, Tagetes lemmonii is known by so many common names (Copper Canyon Daisy, Mexican Bush Marigold, Mountain Marigold, Mount Lemmon Marigold, tangerine-scented marigold, and Perennial Marigold) that it is almost easier to refer to it by its Latin nomenclature.  Yet even its Latin name has a fascinating story behind it.

Tagetes lemmonii is native to the high mountain canyons of northwestern Mexico and southern Arizona.  A finely leafed plant with a very distinctive aroma often described as minty and fruity, lemon and tarragon, or (for some people) just plain “Yuck,” it can grow to a size of four to six feet tall and can spread to six to ten feet.  It can be sheared back however.  It grows best in full sun in well drained soil. It can be grown in part shade, though it may get leggy and have fewer blooms.  Once established it needs little to no supplemental watering.  If grown in an area where deer are a problem, deer will definitely avoid it.  However pollinators, including yellow sulpher butterflies and beneficial insects, are drawn to it.

T, lemmonii is considered to be photosensitive and blooms with bright yellow daisy-like flowers in the fall, winter and early spring when the daylight hours are shorter.  In mild winters, it provides a welcome bright spot in the garden since the flowers can last for quite a while.  However in colder winters, it will sometimes die back to the ground but return in the spring.

Though I always thought that its Latin name lemmonii came from its strong citrus/lemon aroma, a Google search from San Marcos Growers (smgrowers.com) reveals otherwise:  “This plant was discovered in southeastern Arizona, by the early plant collectors, self taught field botanists, and husband and wife, John (1832-1908) and Sara (1836 – 1923) Lemmon. These two incredible people met in Santa Barbara, California, where Sara Allen Plummer lived, in 1876 when she attended a lecture given by John, who at the time was the California State Board of Forestry Botanist. They married in 1880 and botanized throughout the southwest and in the process discovered over 150 new plants including an unknown species of Tagetes, from which they sent seed to Asa Gray at Harvard University, who then named the plant to honor them. Sara and John also climbed the highest mountain in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, which is now called Mount Lemmon reportedly because Sara Lemmon was the first woman to climb it. Both authored books and articles which Sara often illustrated and she was instrumental in the efforts to name Eschscholzia californica as the official California State Flower, as it was done officially by Governor George Pardee in 1903. The Lemmons established plants of Tagetes lemmonii in their garden in Oakland, California and progeny of these plants were introduced to the nursery trade in southern California, and England by the early 1900’s.”

copper canyon daisy top downThere is one word of caution when pruning or working with Tagetes lemmonii. Some people are extremely sensitive to the oils in the leaves and can develop a painful, itchy rash when their skin is exposed to sunlight. Sometimes this rash can continue for several days. Therefore it might be best not to plant Tagetes lemmonii where it can be brushed against, be sure and wear gloves and long sleeves when working with it, or at least wash your skin well with soap and water after handling.

Carolyn

Picture by Roseann from Texas Discovery Garden.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: