Ever since reading Wang Chien’s hauntingly lovely poem to the wild chrysanthemum, I determined I must see this elusive treasure for myself.
The wild chrysanthemum
Late, its enchanting color springs out from the wild hedge,
Its cool fragrance clings to the autumn water.
— Wang Chien, T’ang Dynasty
November is a time of unusual color changes, increasingly cool nights, and the complete disappearance of something so elusive as a wild chrysanthemum.
This color change, these yellowing-to-brown tones, is a condition as much as a color, and one that used to be referred to as ‘sear‘, or archaic, ‘sere‘. I write more about this November color palette—one that I particularly love, but it is a bittersweet love—in The Seasonal Mr. Rochester. (note: it is also a color that makes a lovely wool scarf; also note that there could be a fascinating etymological link between sincere and sere but I have not had enough coffee, yet…)
This picture of one of our local wetlands is from a recent walk, in which I set out with a sincere desire of finding, and photographing, wild chrysanthemums.
Sadly, however earnest my efforts, there are no wild chrysanthemums to be found on my various treks. I did find a few straggling fall asters. Related in species, not in poetic aspect.
Still, the haunting images of enchanting color, the earnest pursuit of a glimpse of wild hedge, with a cool fragrance wafting up from autumn water, was sweet in itself.
For that, I can thank the elusive wild chrysanthemum.
Poetry reference taken from Flower Cookery–The Art of Cooking With Flowers, by Mary MacNichol; worth finding if you can…copies of this book are about as elusive as wild chrysanthemums.