Celosia: Of ‘burning blooms’, symbolisms and super food

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The cockscomb variety of celosia has intricately crested and frilly blooms.

THERE are over 60 species of celosia, an herbaceous annual plant of tropical origin belonging to the Amaranthaceae family.

The genus name ‘celosia’ is derived from Greek’s ‘keleos’, which translates into ‘burning’, in reference to its vibrant, flame-like feathery flowers.

Also known by many names such as ‘cockscomb’ and ‘woolflower’, celosia is a popular ornamental plant. The ancient Greeks and Romans often used the flowers in garlands for celebrations and special events.

In some African cultures, it holds symbolic meanings in a number of rituals and ceremonies.

In Victorian-era England, flowers were often used to convey specific hidden meanings via a system of communication known as ‘floriography’ – ‘the language of flowers’.

A whole series of celosia in different colours would have represented various messages when given as a bouquet.

Here, we have celosia as a beautiful flowering plant in our gardens. I have just planted a few big-sized, bright red cockscombs in my front yard.

Varieties

There are three main types: the ‘cristata’ (cockscomb), the ‘plumosa’ (feather-like) and the ‘spicata’ (resembling wheat stalks).

The cockscomb variety has intricately crested and frilly blooms, while the plumosa exhibits the very meaning of its name – having plume-like flower heads.

The same goes with the ‘spicata’, with its elongated grain-embedded head.

The ‘plumosa’ exhibits the very meaning of its name – having plume-like flower heads.

Celosia symbolises love and affection, strength and resilience, as well as courage and boldness.

In the Chinese culture, the flowers are associated with the ‘Rooster’ zodiac sign, representing luck and protection.

The ‘spicata’ has elongated grain-embedded head, just like that on a wheat stalk.

Properties

Beyond its ornamental value, celosia leaves – as well as the stems and the inflorescences when young – are edible and are used in some cuisines.

The medicinal properties range from aiding digestion, treating diarrhoea and improving skin conditions, to soothing chest pains and offsetting menstrual cramps.

It is non-toxic to both humans and pets.

Nutrition-wise, celosia is known to contain calcium, phosphorus, protein, Vitamin A and C. It is just as nutritious, and delicious, as our ‘bayam’ (spinach).

Cultivation and care

Celosia is generally easy to grow, making it a favourite choice among home gardeners.

It thrives best in well-drained soil, and requires plenty of sunlight to flourish.

For me, I sowed the cockscomb seeds along the sides of the walkways, added some fertiliser and gave it plenty of water if it did not rain – they bloomed within one and a half months.

However, do not over-water so as to avoid root rot.

As the plant grows, the seeds from the flower heads would fall, creating more small plantlets around the parent stalk.

The celosia is very versatile when it comes to landscaping. It can be the focal point in a flowerbed, or adorn the borders, or be pot-planted for decoration around the patio.

It can also be propagated from cutting. First, cut the top five inches of the stem and remove the leaves halfway up. Place in water to allow rooting.

After that, plant the cutting in a potting medium.

Happy Gardening!