Are calendula and marigold the same? This is a question that baffles lots of folks, especially newbie gardeners. This confusion is so widespread it’s not unusual for some gardeners to plant calendula when all they really wanted was marigold, and vice versa.
According to gardening folklore, this confusion could have started when someone, about a millennia ago, had a flash of inspiration and decided that pot marigold is an awesome name for calendula. Whatever the origins of the name though, the simple answer is that marigold and calendula are very different plants. To be fair though, both plants look similar.
In this article, we would outline all the differences (and the few similarities too) between calendula and marigold. There are so many standout differences you’d be left wondering what the fuss was all about since both plants are so clearly different in so many ways.
Table of Contents
Are Calendula And Marigold The Same?
Calendula is commonly known by several other names. The names include pot marigold, English marigold, French marigold and African marigold. There are about 20 calendula species and all are part of the daisy sunflower family.
Despite the various nicknames, calendula is different from marigold (there are about 50 species of marigold) in many respects. However, both plants are sun-loving and belong to the daisy sunflower family producing similarly yellow and orange flowers in various shades depending on the species. That is about the only thing they have in similarities.
The differences on the other hand encompass the plants’ origins, morphology, the appearance of the seeds, toxicity, and uses.
Differences Between Calendula and Marigold
Where the plants originated from seems like the best place to start when comparing and contrasting the two flowers.
Marigold originated from the warmer regions of America including the North, South, and tropical areas. Calendula, on the other hand, is native to North Africa and Southern Europe most especially the central parts.
One of the best ways to tell if calendula is not marigold and vice versa is to examine the morphology or physical traits of both plants. The height range in both flowers is one of their most distinguishing features.
Take calendula for instance. Depending on the species and growth factors, the height can range from about 1 foot to about 2 feet.
With marigold though, the range is wider. The different species range in size from about half a foot to about 4 feet tall.
The flowers too are markedly different making it an easy and convenient index when trying to figure out if a plant is a marigold or calendula.
Calendula petals are comparatively longer and straighter with rather flat, flower blooms. The saucer-shaped blooms come in pink, orange, white, and yellow colors.
Marigold petals, on the other hand, appear rectangular with noticeably smoother, curvier edges. Unlike calendula, Marigold petals are not flat but convex-shaped. The petals bloom with a burst of yellow, orange, and red flowers.
Significant differences can also be found in the physical traits of the seeds of both flowers.
The seeds of calendula are brownish and shaped like curved horns with a rough, somewhat bumpy exterior. On the other hand, marigold seeds are somewhat cylindrically-shaped and blackish in color. You also can’t fail to notice the whitish, brush-like tips of the marigold seeds.
The nature of the marigold seeds makes them excellent self-seeders as they can be carried away easily by winds.
Applications and uses
Calendula plants are generally edible, and all parts of the plant are fit for consumption. But, according to several reports, there is much to be desired in terms of how nice they taste.
However, before using the plant to make a dish or a beverage like calendula tea, it is recommended that you consult a professional botanist or herbalist if you are not sure what you are dealing with.
With marigold, it’s not so straightforward. Some species are edible, but it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid eating them. However, you can go ahead and use it as food if you are absolutely sure the marigold species is non-toxic and safe to eat.
As well as being edible, calendula also has medicinal and other uses such as in the making of some personal care products using the oils extracted from the plant. The flowers also contain yard and fabric-friendly natural dyes that can be extracted by boiling them.
While calendula is famous for its herbal and medicinal properties, marigolds are more useful as companion plants in gardens. The pungent smell is great at warding off harmful pests and nematodes in potatoes, tomatoes, and basil gardens.
You can also tell the difference between calendula and marigold by sniffing the leaves and flowers. Apart from being edible, calendula leaves and flowers have a pleasant, flowery smell.
This is in sharp contrast to marigold’s odor which is unsavory. Tangy, pungent, and a bit spicy are some adjectives generally associated with the smell of marigold flowers and leaves.
It is perhaps this unpleasant smell that makes them perfect as repellents against garden pests and harmful nematodes.
Perennials vs annuals
Marigolds are typically designated as annuals especially in temperate climates with severe winter conditions. In areas that experience mild winters, they can thrive all year round even during the winter months thus behaving like perennials.
On the other hand, most calendula species are comfortable perennials requiring little effort to thrive throughout the year.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Difference Between Calendula and Marigold?
There are quite a few differences between calendula and marigold. These differences go beyond the actual names to the plant morphology, seed appearance, and uses.
Marigolds are generally taller and produce long, black and white-tipped seeds. Calendula seeds, on the other hand, are brownish and curvy.
One of the easiest ways to differentiate between the two plants is through the smell each one gives off. The generally edible calendula flowers and leaves have a nice, pleasant, flowery aroma. The inedible marigold plant is the opposite. The odor is unpleasant and rather pungent.
What Is Another Name for Marigold?
Marigold, a species of Tagetes genus, is typically named based on factors such as the growing region. So it was normal to have names like French marigold, African marigold, and Mexican Marigold. These are the common names for Tagetes patula, Tagetes Lucida, and Tagetes erecta respectively.
What is Calendula Scientific Name?
Calendula’s scientific name is Calendula officinalis of the Asteraceae plant family.
Are Calendula Flowers Marigold?
No. While there is some confusion because the flowers look similar and the common but misleading name ‘pot marigold’, calendula flowers are different from marigold.
Is There Another Name for Calendula?
Yes. There are several actually. As well as the more common pot marigold, other names for calendula include, common marigold, Mary Bud, Ruddles, Holligold, and Gold bloom