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Yellow Chamomile

Cota tinctoria

  • Latin synonym: Anthemis tinctoria
  • Name also: Golden Chamomile, Golden Marquerite
  • Family: Daisy Family – Compositae, subfamily Asteroideae
    (formerly Aster Family – Asteraceae)
  • Grownig form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 20–80 cm (8–32 in.). Stem branchless—short-branched, short-haired at least from top. Herb-like fragrance.
  • Flower: Single flower-like 2.5–4.5 cm (1–1.8 in.) capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitula flowers bright yellow (occasionally pale yellow), ray-florets tongue-like, tip 3-toothed; disc florets tubular, small. Stamens 5. Pistil of 2 fused carpels. Involucre hemispherical, involucral bracts in many rows, narrow, round-tipped, with membranous margins, with ciliate edges, hairy. Capitula solitary terminating branches.
  • Leaves: Alternate, almost stalkless. Blade 2 times pinnately lobed–with leaflets, top glabrous, underside short-haired, greyish, small lobes–leaflets toothed, terminated by a short bristle.
  • Fruit: Flat, angular, faintly ridged, brown achene, tip with crowned by a membranous ring (a reduced pappus).
  • Habitat: Banks, dry meadows, meadows, rocky outcrops, roadsides, railway yards, harbours, gravel pits, wasteland. Also ornamental.
  • Flowering time: June–September.

Yellow chamomile is an ancient arrival (archeophyte) in Finland: its cypselas have been found in excavations around Turku and dated to the 14th–16th centuries. At that time it was probably sparse and special in certain locations. The species has probably travelled to Finland with hay-seed from central and southern Finland and only become common when the cultivation of hay became more widespread. Its golden age was synchronous with the beginning of hay cultivation at the end of the 19th century. Its decline began with the development of mechanised cultivation, and it disappeared from hay fields decades ago and is nowadays most common on dry meadows and roadsides. Yellow chamomile has had its uses in its day – its scientific name tinctoria comes from its use as a dye: the capitula’s bright yellow pigment has been used to dye wool and silk cloth. Nowadays yellow chamomile is quite popular in gardens as a colourful ornamental as it flowers for a long time, almost the whole summer. Individual plants do not live long but the stand spreads by seed in suitable habitats, even in untended parts of the garden and overgrown corners.

Genus Anthemis plants can be told apart because although yellow chamomile has an entirely yellow inflorescence, other plants in the genus that grow in Finland have white ray-florets. The most common of these is corn chamomile (A. arvensis), which looks a lot like scentless mayweed (Tripleurospermum perforatum) and which has also declined rapidly. Yellow chamomile is often known colloquially as yellow daisy. Corn marigold or corn daisy, (Chrysanthemum segetum), which is a native of the Mediterranean area, grows casually in Finland and is sometimes known as yellow chamomile. According to legend it entered the country via the north on a foreign sailing ship. Coast-dwellers robbed the ship when it was transporting grain, but they got their just desserts: the seed they sowed grew only Chrysanthemum segetum. It doesn’t grow anywhere for long, but there are plenty sightings across the country.

Other species from the same family

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