For autumn color, chrysanthemums are showstoppers. They're the first choice of proud moms for homecoming corsages; their exquisite forms draw thousands to flower shows; and in the fall, they dominate prime counter space at garden centers.
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In China, where chrysanthemums have a history of more than 2,500 years, they've been trained as bonsai, honored in artwork, and consumed as food and tea (the Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo advised, “Eat the shoots in the spring, leaves in the summer, flowers in the fall, and roots in the winter”). Introduced in Japan in about the eighth century, the chrysanthemum (or kiku) quickly became all the rage; it's featured on the seal of Japan's Imperial family and is celebrated every year in the Chrysanthemum Day festival.