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Sea Marigold (Trailing Calendula)
Sea Marigold (Trailing Calendula)
Sea Marigold (Trailing Calendula)
Sea Marigold (Trailing Calendula)
Sea Marigold (Trailing Calendula)
Sea Marigold (Trailing Calendula)

Sea Marigold (Trailing Calendula)

Regular price $4.00 Sale

Calendula maritima

Origin: Trapani, Sicily, Italy

Improvement status: Wild

Seeds per packet: ~20

BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED

Life cycle: Annual

Most gardeners and nearly all herbalists are familiar with garden calendula or pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), but few know this rare wild calendula relative found today only in a few places in extreme western Sicily. Called calendula marittima in its native Sicily, or Sea Marigold in English, this species is one of the rarest calendula wild relatives in the world. (Botanists haven't yet come to consensus on whether its Latin name should be Calendula maritima or Calendula suffriticosa subsp. maritima.)

Endemic to the northwestern coast of Sicily in and around the city of Trapani, this critically endangered species has suffered greatly from coastal development (including, it seems, the industrial-scale salt-flats apparent in the satellite view of the place where this particular accession was collected a few decades ago). Sea level rise and extreme heat and drought from climate change are also threats to its future in its native range ("in situ"), highlighting the importance of preserving species like this in other parts of the world ("ex situ") — like southern New Jersey!

We got our stock seeds from the USDA, which maintains only this calendula marittima, collected at Ronciglio in the early 1990s. The USDA maintains at least one accession of 19 species and subspecies in the Calendula genus. Intrigued by the possibility of finding useful medicinal species among them, we requested a few of them last winter.

The flowers of this epcies are smaller than typical calendula flowers, and uniformly yellow. The seeds are similar, but not identical, and they are much more prone to falling off when ripe (common with crop wild relatives). The seeds come in three distinct forms, a large smooth winged type, a small ridged circular curl, and a long straight pointy type. The leaves, buds, and calyx are sticky with resin that smells and tastes pine with a hint of marjoram or thyme. It seems obvious this plant has medicinal applications — but it has been little studied and we can find no ethnobotanical research about it.

Our seed was grown by our friends Mud Forte (who also has Sicilian ancestry!) and Harry Matthews in Sicklerville, NJ. We were all surprised at how well this plant seemed to do in the sandy soil of southern New Jersey, especially given its rarity in the wild and the distinct ecosystem in which its found. We very much appreciate Mud & Harry's diligence in collecting seeds practically every day as proved necessary. They obviously recognized the rarity and specialness of this really cool plant.

GROWING TIPS: Seeds need no special treatment. Sow in flats or direct seed after all danger of frost has passed. Plants do not get as large as classic calendula, so they can be grown as close as 4 or 6 inches apart. Likely prefer full sun and sandy or otherwise well-drained soil.