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Cempasuchil or "flor de muerto"

© 2006 Suzanne Barbezat, licensed to About


Cempasuchitl, or flor de muerto ("flower of the dead") are Marigold flowers, and they figure prominently in Day of the Dead celebrations. The bright orange-yellow flowers bloom at the end of rainy season in Mexico, just in time for the holiday of which they are such a vital part. The flowers are used to adorn Day of the Dead altars along with special bread called pan de muerto, sugar skulls, candles and other items, as well as to adorn graves during the festivities. It is believed that the strong aroma of the flowers draws the spirits who return to visit their families at this time.

The word "cempasuchitl" comes from the Nahuatl (the language spoken by the Aztecs) and means twenty-flower: Cempoa, meaning "twenty" and xochitl, "flower" and refers to the many petals of the flower.

Read more about marigolds from About.com's Gardening expert, or learn more Vocabulary Words for Day of the Dead.


Pronunciation: sem-pa-soo-cheel

Also Known As: Flor de muerto, Marigold

Alternate Spellings: Sempasuchitl, Cempoaxochitl, Cempasuchil, Zempasuchitl

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