Several bright orange flowers
Tagetes erecta

Mexican marigold

Family: Asteraceae
Other common names: afrikanertjie (Afrikaans), musá (Chinanteco), 万寿菊 (Chinese simplified),萬壽菊(Chinese traditional), opret fløjlsblomst (Danish), African marigold (English), kõrge peiulill (Estonian), isosamettikukka (Finnish), rose d'Inde (French), Aufrechte Samtblume (German), caxyhuitz (Huasteco), kenikir, tahi kotok (Indonesian), アフリカンマリーゴールド(Japanese), masehual-xpuux (Maya), ita-cuaan (Mixteco), cempaxochitl, cempoalxochitl, tonalxochitl (Nahuatl), jondri (Otomí), apátzicua (Purépecha), ᱠᱩᱥᱩᱢᱵᱤ (Santali), cempasúchil, flor de muerto (Spanish), ดาวเรือง (Thai), jacatsnat (Totonaco), kadife çiçeği (Turkish), guie coba (Zapoteco), musajoyó (Zoque)

Known in Mexico as ‘the flower of the dead’, the Mexican marigold plays a key role in the annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival.

The blooms are used to decorate altars to the dead, known as ‘ofrendas’, with their bright orange colour and strong scent thought to help guide the spirits of the dead home.

The flowers have played a role in rituals in Central America since Aztec times, with their Nahuatl name cempoalxóchitl meaning ‘twenty flowers’.

As well as having great cultural significance, Mexican marigolds have also been used in local medicines for hundreds of years, including remedies for fevers, colds and digestive problems.

Mexican marigolds grow between 50cm to 1m tall, with leaves on opposite sides of the stem. The leaves reach around 3cm long, with jagged edges, and grow in bundles on smaller stems from the main stem. At the top of the stems, inflorescences grow in disc shapes, made up of over 100 individual flowers, which can be yellow to orange.

Read the scientific profile for Mexican marigold.


Known as the flower of the dead, the Mexican marigold plays a vital role in the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, being used to decorate shrines to family members.

Food and drink

The dried petals are fed to various livestock animals, including chickens and shrimp, to enhance colour in the food product.


Mexican marigolds have been used as a traditional medicine for thousands of years, including as treatment for digestive problems and respiratory diseases.

Materials and fuels

Mexican marigolds are used to produce a yellow dye for use on textiles.

  • There are a number of varieties of Mexican marigold, including ‘Big Top’, ‘Perfection’ and ‘Inca’.

  • Tagetes erecta is often known as the African marigold, as it became a common species along the North African coast after being introduced in the 16th century.

A map of the world showing where the Mexican marigold is native and introduced to
Native: Guatemala, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest
Introduced: Alabama, Andaman Is., Angola, Arkansas, Assam, Austria, Baleares, Baltic States, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bulgaria, California, Cameroon, Canary Is., Cape Verde, Caroline Is., Cayman Is., Chad, Colombia, Connecticut, Cook Is., Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, East Aegean Is., East Himalaya, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Florida, France, Galápagos, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Gulf of Guinea Is., Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Illinois, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Jawa, Kansas, Kazakhstan, Kentucky, Korea, Krym, Laccadive Is., Laos, Leeward Is., Louisiana, Madeira, Marianas, Marshall Is., Maryland, Massachusetts, Mauritius, Missouri, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, New York, Nicaragua, Nicobar Is., Niue, North Carolina, North Caucasus, Northern Provinces, Norway, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oman, Pakistan, Panamá, Pennsylvania, Peru, Philippines, Pitcairn Is., Poland, Portugal, Primorye, Puerto Rico, Rodrigues, Romania, Réunion, Sicilia, South Carolina, South European Russi, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tadzhikistan, Taiwan, Thailand, Transcaucasus, Trinidad-Tobago, Tubuai Is., Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Utah, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vermont, Vietnam, Virginia, Windward Is., Wisconsin, Wyoming, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

Naturalised in many countries around the world, in forests and grasslands, thriving in poor soils between 800 and 2300m.

Best time to see
Flowers: Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov
Foliage: Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct

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The geographical areas mentioned on this page follow the World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD) developed by Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG).