The tassel flower is a single species in the herbaceous genus, emilia. It is a member of the extensive asteraceae family, and is native to tropical regions of Africa. The name tassel flower began as something of a description for its characteristic pompon-shaped head, which tends to form in clusters atop thin, spindly stems that burst forth from a basal rosette. While this rosette contains blue green leaves, the flowers themselves are known for their more flamboyant shades of fiery red and orange. This tall-growing bloom is considered relatively delicate. They grow quite well in warm, humid areas, but are not hardy and cannot withstand cool weather and frost.
Although the majority of flowering plants have, in one way or another, found their way into folk medicine, the tassel flower is one of the few that have actually become a major part of scientific research. Tassel flowers have long been used for their antimicrobial properties; however, an assessment was made on the uses of emilea coccinea, cuscuta australis and chasmanthera dependens to see how effective this combination would be in the management of eye diseases. The results of this assessment were promising, and were said to bear similar results to that of ciprofloxacin – a common pharmaceutical grade antibiotic. Tests have also been done to prove the tassel flower’s effectiveness as an antidiarrhoeal medicine. In 2006 the University of Dschang tested both aqueous and methanol extracts of the tassel flower’s leaves on lab rats. Although the aqueous extract did not perform as well, the methanol extract was said to significantly reduce the frequency of episodes of stomach upsets, as well as decreasing the speed of which charcoal meal was passed through the gastrointestinal tract. In addition to having some interesting medicinal actions, tassel blossoms are also sometimes applied to the culinary arts. These plants are occasionally used as uniquely flavored salad greens, placed into soups or dried and used as a spice.
Although tassel flowers are not directly linked to any specific piece of symbolism, it is not hard to associate them with creativity – especially since one of their alternative nicknames is Flora’s paintbrush. Given this association, it would not be surprising that these blooms may be given as gifts to encourage artistic endeavors or to foster the imagination. Although a vivid bouquet made up solely of this particular blossom may very well be lovely, the bright hues may be overwhelming, and many people prefer to give them in a mixed arrangement.