OCTOBER’s birthday flower, the vibrant marigold comes in a range of colours including white, gold and yellow; however, the most popular is bright orange. Marigolds have been used for a wide variety of purposes throughout history. Ancient Greek and Roman cultures, as well as Indian and Middle Eastern all used marigolds for everything from treating various health ailments, dying fabrics, creating cosmetics and seasoning foods.With its intense colour, the marigold is the symbol of passion and creativity. In Medieval England, the flowers and leaves of the marigold flower, combined with ground eggshells, were added to heated ale and drunk as a treatment for the plague. In Asia, garlands of marigold flowers are used to decorate religious statues, and during funerals and wedding ceremonies. During Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos celebration colourful garlands of marigold flowers adorn the graves of deceased relatives and elaborate altars constructed in the many homes. These altars are filled with favourite photos, toys and food items of the deceased. It is believed that the scent of the flowers help guide the spirits from the cemetery to the altars. The yellow and orange marigolds symbolise the sun and light. Marigold flowers can be eaten and are often used in salads or as a substitute for the much more expensive saffron spice. The leaves of the marigold plant are also occasionally eaten, but not as tasty.The Aztecs believed that if the flower opened in the morning it would rain later in the day. Another great use for the marigold is as a natural insect repellent. It’s strong scent helps keep mosquitos and aphids away.