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Sulfur cosmos, orange sulfur, yellow cosmos, or bright lights, and botanically known as cosmos sulphureus, is an annual flowering plant in the aster or sunflower family. It is native to the Americas and Mexico but has now naturalized in Australia, Europe, Africa, and Asia. In most of these places, it was introduced as an ornamental plant but in some instances, its seeds were accidentally transported aboard merchant ships.
[Note: The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.]
The genus name of the plant comes from a Greek word, kosmos, meaning beautiful, orderly, and harmonious. Sulfur is borrowed from the color of the plant’s petals, which are bright orange or golden yellow.
Orange sulfur is commonly grown as an ornamental plant due to its bright, lovely flowers which are ideal for the cut flower industry. It is also harvested in the wild for food and herbal purposes. In spite of its many uses, the plant is considered invasive in some U.S states.
The plant is easily found growing along roadsides, on slopes, and well-watered meadows. It is known to escape cultivation to grow in the wild or as a garden weed. Sulfur cosmos occurs in fertile, well-drained soil with sufficient moisture but can also tolerate dry and poor soil. For the plant to thrive and flower, it must be in a sunny spot.
In summer, sulfur cosmos produces bright golden yellow, or orange to red, flowers that attract various pollinators including bees.
Basically, the parts of the plant that are used for herbal and food purposes are the flowers and leaves. Blossoms are ideal for stir-frying or garnishing salads as they add a splash of color. The flowers have a mild mango taste and pair well with fruity dishes.
To get the best out of the leaves, harvest them when they are young and tender. Together with the flowers, they are added to chop suey and eaten with rice or pasta.
Apart from being edible, the yellow flower heads of the sulfur cosmos are known to contain beneficial compounds such as flavonoids. These make them ideal for inhibiting the growth and reproduction of fungi, bacteria, and viruses. In addition, the flowers are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and are ideal for treating arthritis, ulcers, and liver inflammation.
Though not a common practice today, the orange sulfur flowers were commonly used to produce an orange or yellow dye for coloring fabric by native tribes in Central and South America. The dye was also used by European settlers in South Africa and the practice is known to exist to date but is limited to decorating traditional crafts.
Sulfur cosmos might be a modest flower but its uses are too many to dismiss. This is definitely a multi-purpose plant.