Mexico seems unable to exist without flowers. It’s rare to see a home no matter how ramshackle without a few stems of colour planted on their doorstep. Gardens, market stalls, shrines and altars are all adorned with brilliant splashes of colour.
But this is no new trend – Mexico inherits its love of all things floral from its Aztec ancestors. One such flower that has spanned the test of time is the Mexican Sunflower. It goes by many names: Tithonia diversifolia, the tithonia ‘torch’ and sometimes is referred to as The Golden Flower of the Inca’s.
It’s a tall plant, maybe 60 inches, with large daisy-like flowers in bursts of bright orange, red or yellow. It grows in the summer months, right through to autumn and the first frosts of winter.
What is so special about this autumnal plant is it’s height and colour – it’s a beacon for many pollinators and one very special one at that: the Monarch Butterfly.
The Monarchs make their journey from Eastern Canada during the months of September and October and hone straight towards these delicious plants when they arrive in Mexico. This magically coincides with The Day of the Dead, a time when the dead are celebrated and flowers are in their most adorned.
But the magic of these flowers doesn’t stop there – perhaps they were so important to the Aztecs because of their way to transform the soil…
As plants native to Mexico and Central America, they are drought tolerant and like warm weather. It takes very little for them to survive in the heat and they do not require a large amount of nutrients in the soil itself, because they produce it themselves. Potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen are the key nutrients they create and release into the soil, helping them and their neighbouring plants to flourish.
This unique Mexican flower has become an affordable alternative to expensive synthetic fertilizers, and is used to help benefit poor African farmers as a green fertilizer. Meaning this bright flower of Mexico enables others to exist in the world too.