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(Daisy or Sunflower family)


Chrysanthemum L.

About 200 species are found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Some authorities would, however, reserve the genus for only five Eurasian and Mediterranean species.

A few species are of commercial and horticultural importance; extensive hybridisation between and within some of the species has resulted in a plethora of named cultivars of obscure parentage. To compound this taxonomic and nomenclatural problem, the vast majority of reports of skin reactions to these plants fail to identify precisely either which cultivar(s) was (were) responsible, or which cultivar(s) was (were) used for subsequent patch testing.

The very popular chrysanthemum of florists and horticulturalists is named variously as Chrysanthemum × hortorum W.Mill., Chrysanthemum morifolium Ramat., or Chrysanthemum indicum L. Ackerson (1957) noted that Chrysanthemum × hortorum was evolved largely from hybridisation of Chrysanthemum indicum and Chrysanthemum morifolium. Chromosome studies suggest that several crosses and back crosses have occurred since the original cross, which may have occurred over 2000 years ago (Gorer 1970). Some more modern cultivars have a more mixed parentage involving other species. Thus, Korean chrysanthemums are derived from a cross between Chrysanthemum coreanum Nakai and Chrysanthemum cv. Mrs Phil Page, the latter being referable to Chrysanthemum × hortorum. It is worth noting that even though most accounts of the historical development of florist's chrysanthemums do not differ essentially in detail, their nomenclature is not generally agreed upon. Thus, Gosling (1979) in The Chrysanthemum Manual of the National Chrysanthemum Society (of Britain), whilst acknowledging that several species of chrysanthemum have contributed to the development of the modern chrysanthemum, notes that "the name Chrysanthemum morifolium is now used as the scientific name for all autumn-flowering perennial chrysanthemums".

Numerous reports of dermatitis from unidentified Chrysanthemum species or cultivars may be cited. These include reports by Dawson (1906), Harrison (1906), Waugh (1918), Goldstein (1931), MacCormac (1932), Reyn (1933), Photinos (1934), Leipold (1938), Coste et al. (1942), Fisher (1952), Olivier & Renkin (1954), Blamoutier (1956), Paschoud (1956), Hjorth (1965), Burry (1969), Hausen & Schulz (1973, a review), and Sugai et al. (1980). These reports most probably refer to the chrysanthemum of florists, Chrysanthemum × hortorum W.Mill. and cultivars thereof.

Many more reports of positive patch test reactions to "Chrysanthemum" in patients being investigated for various reasons are also to be found in the literature.

Hausen & Schulz (1978) describe a typical case of a female florist, who ran a flower shop for 12 years. In this time she developed contact allergy to both chrysanthemums and Primula obconica Hance (fam. Primulaceae), because of which she had to quit her job. In this time she suffered occasionally from redness of the pharynx and also stomach-ache after ingestion of tea prepared from yarrow (Achillea L.) or chamomile (see Chamaemelum Mill. and Matricaria L.). Weeding in her garden was frequently followed by pruritus and swelling of the face. Patch testing produced positive reactions to chrysanthemum, sunflower (Helenium L.), Arnica L., chamomile, yarrow, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare L.), mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris L.), and a liverwort belonging to the genus Frullania Raddi (fam. Jubulaceae).

Chrysanthemums are popular plants in Japan throughout the year but dermatitis from them appears to be rare in that country (Sugai et al. (1980). Most Japanese people enjoy eating chrysanthemum leaves and floating the flower on their soup because of its aroma (see also Chrysanthemum coronarium L. below). They may have some immunoregulation of contact sensitivity to chrysanthemum as a result of this oral ingestion of the leaves and some essences of the flowers. Sugai et al. (1980) reported husband and wife florists who had Chrysanthemum dermatitis; they also found a report of three cases occurring in rural growers (Bando et al. 1976). Alantolactone gave a positive patch test reaction in the wife but not the husband, but the husband was actively sensitised by the test. These clinical observations support the view that alantolactone is not naturally occurring in chrysanthemums.

Hausen & Schulz (1973, 1976) and Bleumink et al. (1976) investigated the allergens of Chrysanthemum. The phytochemistry of the genus, and the role of sesquiterpene lactones was reviewed by Schulz et al. (1975). See also Chrysanthemum × hortorum, Chrysanthemum indicum, and Chrysanthemum morifolium.

Chrysanthemum achilleae L.

Costunolide, a potentially allergenic sesquiterpene lactone, has been reported from this species.

Chrysanthemum coreanum Nakai

A florist had dermatitis from this plant; patch tests produced positive reactions in the patient, negative in two controls. The patient also reacted to C. sinense Sabine cv. C. Turner (Sertoli & Fabbri 1974).

Chrysanthemum coronarium L.
Shungiku, Chopsuey Green

The plant is highly valued in the Orient for its strong flavour. The leaves are cooked like spinach or in soup, or eaten raw in salads (Richter 1981).

Chrysanthemum frutescens L.
[syn. Argyranthemum frutescens Sch.Bip.]
White Marguerite, Paris Daisy, Paris Marguerite

Various cultivars of this species are grown as pot plants in Europe.

Sesamin, which is known for its role in sesame oil (Sesamum indicum L., fam. Pedaliaceae) dermatitis, has been isolated from this species (Winterfeldt 1963).

Chrysanthemum × hortorum W.Mill.
Chrysanthemum, Autumn Flowering Chrysanthemum

This is probably the most appropriate name for the chrysanthemum of florists, which is thought to be derived originally from a cross between Chrysanthemum indicum L. and Chrysanthemum morifolium Ramat. (Miller et al. 1919, Gorer 1970). Interestingly, it would appear to be the least commonly used name in the literature; Chrysanthemum morifolium, or more commonly still, Chrysanthemum × morifolium, is the most widely encountered, with Chrysanthemum indicum only occasionally being used. The name Chrysanthemum × hortorum is not even mentioned by Gosling (1979) in his account of the historical development of chrysanthemums. Needless to say, nomenclatural confusion of this sort makes the interpretation of the literature rather difficult. However, since the parentage of any particular specimen of a chrysanthemum encountered in a florist's shop or in a chrysanthemum grower's garden is not likely to be readily ascertainable, it may be inappropriate even to apply the binominal Chrysanthemum × hortorum bearing in mind that certain modern cultivars are derived from crosses involving other Chrysanthemum species. Ideally, all investigations, whether dermatological or phytochemical, should specify the name of the cultivar being studied without necessarily assigning the plant to a particular species, thus: Chrysanthemum cv. Annie Curry.

Instances of contact sensitivity to some cultivars and lack of sensitivity to others was reported by Olivier & Renkin (1954), Rook (1961b), Malten (1973), and Mitchell (1974a). This finding can be of importance to a flower grower who may be able to continue growing cultivars to which he/she is not reactive.

See also Chrysanthemum indicum and Chrysanthemum morifolium.

Chrysanthemum indicum L.

Many authors to date have referred to the chrysanthemum of florists as being Chrysanthemum indicum. However, the true Chrysanthemum indicum has a head of small, single, yellow daisies, and looks rather like a superior hawkweed (Hieracium L.). It is not, in itself, a very attractive plant (Gorer 1970). In the absence of evidence to the contrary, reports of dermatitis from Chrysanthemum indicum, especially if referring also to the chrysanthemum of florists, should be interpreted with scepticism, since the plant to which the authors are probably referring is a cultivar of Chrysanthemum × hortorum W.Mill. Similarly, phytochemical investigations are likely to produce conflicting results reflecting the mis-identification or simply the inherent variability between members of hybrid swarms.

Hoffmann (1904), Pilot (1932), Schlammadinger (1933), Bonnevie (1939), and Macharacek (1964) named this species as a cause of dermatitis. Hoffmann (1904) referred to a particular cultivar named Grunerwald (probably cv. M.G. Grunerwald).

Several cases of florist's chrysanthemum allergy ascribed to C. indicum were described by Hausen (1979) who noted cross-sensitivity variously to camomile (Chamaemelum nobile All.), yarrow (Achillea millefolium L.), arnica (Arnica montana L.), daisy (Bellis perennis L.), sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale F.H.Wigg.), an unidentified aster, and a liverwort (Frullania dilatata Dum., fam. Jubulaceae). Hausen (1981b) described a 40 year old female florist who was apparently sensitised to sesquiterpene lactones by contact with Tanacetum parthenium Sch.Bip. She also reacted strongly to patch tests with an extract from a plant described as Chrysanthemum indicum.

One of the four sensitising sesquiterpene lactones in plant material referred to this taxon was found to be arteglasin A, which has previously been isolated from Artemisia douglasiana Besser (Hausen et al. 1975, Hausen & Schulz 1976). Hausen & Schulz (1973, 1976), Schulz et al. (1975), and Bleumink et al. (1976) investigated "Chrysanthemum indicum" for its contact allergens. The presence of Δ-3-carene (Demura 1961, de Pascual-T. et al. 1980) and sesamin (de Pascual-T. et al. 1980) in unidentified cultivars of C. indicum has also been reported. Both of these compounds are known to be elicitors of allergic contact dermatitis, the former in turpentine oil (see Pinaceae) dermatitis, the latter in sesame oil (Sesamum indicum L., fam. Pedaliaceae) dermatitis. However, Schulz et al. (1975) could find no sensitivity to oil of turpentine nor its oxidation products in 5 patients with contact sensitivity to chrysanthemums. See also Chrysanthemum × hortorum and Chrysanthemum morifolium Ramat.

Chrysanthemum morifolium Ramat.
[syn. Chrysanthemum sinense Sabine]

Many authors have referred to the chrysanthemums of florists as being Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum × morifolium (see also Gosling 1979), the latter form apparently being used in an attempt to acknowledge the hybrid nature of the plants. The plants are probably more accurately described as Chrysanthemum × hortorum W.Mill. (Gorer 1970), a name that is only very rarely encountered in the literature.

Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962), referring to Chrysanthemum sinense Sabine, note that the plant is said to be irritant to the extent of producing inflammation of the skin. See also Chrysanthemum coreanum Nakai above.

Various (usually unspecified) cultivars derived from this taxon have caused dermatitis and/or have elicited positive patch test reactions in patients being investigated for contact allergy. The following reports may be cited: Dawson (1906), Goldstein (1931), Mayers (1932), Osborne & Putnam (1932), Reyn (1933), Photinos (1934), Leipold (1938), Davies (1939), Shelmire (1940), Coste et al. (1942), Ellerbroek (1952), Fisher (1952), Olivier & Renkin (1954), Blamoutier (1956), Becker & O'Brien (1959), Curtis (1960), Rook (1960), Rook (1961b), Macharacek (1964), Hjorth (1965), Paschoud (1965), Robertson & Mitchell (1967), Agrup (1969), Mitchell (1969, a review), O'Quinn & Isbell (1969), Bleumink et al. (1973a), Burry et al. (1973), Bleumink et al. (1976), and Burry (1979).

Patients with contact sensitivity to cultivars of Chrysanthemum morifolium will give positive patch test reactions to a number of sesquiterpene lactones, including alantolactone, arbusculin A, 8-deoxycumambrin, ambrosin, damsin, and psilostachyin (Bleumink et al. 1976, Campolmi et al. 1978). See also Chrysanthemum × hortorum and Chrysanthemum indicum L.

Frain-Bell & Johnson (1979) observed positive patch test reactions to the oleoresin from Chrysanthemum morifolium in 6 from 55 patients with the photosensitivity dermatitis and actinic reticuloid syndrome. Burry (1980a) observed a weakly positive patch test reaction to Chrysanthemum morifolium in a 75 year old patient who had been admitted to hospital because of a severe exacerbation of a condition that had been diagnosed four years previously as photodermatitis.

The potentially allergenic sesquiterpene lactones chlorochrymorin, chrysartemin A, and chrysartemin B have been reported from Chrysanthemum morifolium. Campolmi et al. (1978, 1979) claimed to find alantolactone in chrysanthemum but their findings were disputed by Benezra et al. (1978) and by Hausen (1978c).

Chrysanthemum ornatum Hemsley var. spontaneum Kitam.
[syn. Chrysanthemum japonense Nakai]


Chrysanthemum poteriifolium Bornm.
[syn. Pyrethrum poteriifolium Ledeb.]

Potentially allergenic sesquiterpene lactones have been isolated from these species.

Richard J. Schmidt

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