The Death Skull Marigold Society

Sorry, the Death Skull Marigold Society is dead. Good luck finding others with your interests.

What may seem like a benign garden flower really has a history that dates back to the Aztecs. Did you know that these plants that quietly live among us are used to welcome the dead back to their homes in Mexico? As one of the most popular garden flowers, marigolds can be found in almost any city in the world, sequestering carbon, and adding color to even the most drab landscapes.

Marigolds are amazing and wonderful plants, and it is the mission of the Death Skull Marigold Society to spread understanding and respect for marigolds throughout the world, as well as actually spreading marigolds throughout the world.

Marigolds fall nicely into two types:
  • French Marigolds - these are the smaller growing marigolds that can be single and double, and come in red yellow, orange brown and combinations of the above. Together they comprise the species Tagetes patula.
  • African Marigolds - these are the taller growing marigolds with more standard looking "puff ball" marigold flowers, usually solid yellow or solid orange. They are in the species Tagetes erecta


Both French and African marigolds are closely related, and they originally come from Mexico and Guatemala. They were grown by indigenous peoples such as the Aztecs long before the arrival of Europeans. The Aztecs associated marigolds with the dead, and this association survives today as marigolds are used to welcome the dead back into their houses during the Mexican "Dia de los Muertes" festival. Click here to see some marvelous paintings of "calaveras" or skeletons from the Dia de los Muertes festival - one is putting marigolds in her hair! Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA has a Dia de los Muertos and Marigold parade!

Here is a great webpage that describes the uses of marigolds by the Aztecs.

I have never seen photos of marigolds in the wild. If anyone knows of any, please let me know.

Marigolds arrive in Europe

European explorers brought marigolds back with them and they soon became popular throughout Europe and beyond. There actually was a plant called "marigold" grown in Europe at the time. These are now demoted to being called "pot marigolds", or they are known by their scientific name, Calendula. The word "marigold" comes from "Mary" and "gold" put together, probably a reference to the Virgin Mary, a character in Christian mythology, and "gold" for the flower color.

Marigolds go by other names throughout the world, here are a few:

  • cempasuchil - in Mexico, usually referring to the larger African marigold. The word comes from Nahuatl and literally means "twenty flower".
  • Flor de Muertos - also in Mexico, literally "flower of the dead"
  • Studentenblume - in German, literally "Students' flower" - I would be interested in learning the origin of this name, if anyone has any info, let me know.
  • Genda - in Hindi, marigolds are very popular in India

Marigolds in India

In Kolkata (Calcutta), India there is a busy flower market called Mullickghat flower market and marigolds are the favorites there. Indians are way ahead of us in appreciating this wonderful plant. For a great explanation of this flower market, see this page on Human Flower Project.

And here are some amazing photos taken by Arnab Chatterjee:

The White Marigold

David Burpee, of Burpee Seed fame was profiled in a Time magazine article from 1960 (worth a read, a lot of good marigold info - and what happened to the search for the blue and purple marigolds?). The article mentions a prize of $10,000, first offered in 1954, for a white marigold. The prize was finally won in 1975 by a little old lady named Mrs. Alice Vonk in Iowa. I remember this made quite an impression on me as a kid. Marigold breeding was not the exclusive domain of giant seed companies, anyone could do it.

Here is a photo of Mrs. Vonk and an account from the Burpee seed company.
Here is Time magazine's account of the victory.

Marigold Seed Exchange

Sorry, due to lack of interest, this is no longer active.

About the Death Skull Marigold Society

When you think of the rose society or the orchid society, you think of calm tea times with little old ladies and gentlemen with British accents. That's fine, that fits, as roses and orchids are weak and their days are numbered, they are just hanging on in a world that has passed them by.

Marigolds, however, are the future. They are growth. They are unstoppable. They will be spreading their influence long after you are in your grave. We need a union of individuals of a different caliber. Men and women to act as emissaries between the marigold world and the human world.

There is nothing more awesome and powerful than the transformation of a little nothing seed into a tremendous solar-powered self-replicating factory. Gardeners are the wizards that guide these amazing creatures to dominate and transform their landscape. Why not borrow some terms from the marigolds rich heritage to add a little edge. Marigolds represent a bright and glorious future. This is not your grandma's garden club. OK, maybe it is if your grandma is really tough, and I know some are. This is the Death Skull Marigold Society. We are not here to have tea, we are here to grow marigolds, to exchange marigolds, to breed marigolds, and to help the people of the world stop wasting their time and land on grass and television, and embrace the path of the marigold!

Join the Death Skull Marigold Society

The only requirement to join the Death Skull Marigold Society is undying loyalty to the propagation and advancement of marigolds. There is no membership fee. We know when you begin to fully appreciate marigolds, you will bring all your talents to aid their glorious march to global prominence. To join, stand up, make a fist with your right hand and hold it upright (assuming you have a right hand - otherwise, just skip on) and repeat the Death Skull Marigold Oath of Fealty:
  • I pledge myself to advancing the understanding and appreciation of marigolds whenever possible.
  • I will grow marigolds whenever and wherever possible.
  • I will pester my friends and relatives, if I have any, to grow and appreciate marigolds.
  • Marigolds everywhere! Marigolds forever!
That is it. You are now a member of the Death Skull Marigold Society in good standing.