The Seven Flowers of Autumn (Aki No Nanakusa) is not very well-known to many people outside of Japan, as most people connect flowers like sakura, wisteria, and cosmos to Japan. However, the Seven Flowers of Autumn have always been a popular topic in haiku (Japanese poem) and other Japanese literature. Let’s take a closer look at each of them!
Japanese bush clover is a semi-woody subshrub, multi-branched clumps that produce a profusion of rosy purple pea flowers. The flowers are legume-shaped. It needs good drainage and needs full sun exposure. This plant is great for cascading over a wall.
Kuzu or Japanese arrowroot are climbing, coiling, and trailing perennial vines. This flower has many uses from soil improvement and preservation, is used as animal feed, for fiber art and basketry, food and medicine.
Japanese Pampas Grass is a known autumn symbol. It can be seen anywhere mostly in fields and riverbeds. It is a herbaceous perennial grass growing up to two meters or sometimes four meters. The leaves are broad and the flowers are purplish and turn brown and gold deep into the autumn.
Ominaeshi are hundreds of airy bright yellow flowers. Omina-eshi or omina-esi if translated to English means “maiden flower” or “ladyflower”. This flower also grows anywhere.
The flowers have five petals and are typically pale to dark pink. Nadeshiko if translated to English means “a child you can caress”. The Japanese national women’s team (Yamato Nadeshiko) is also named after this flower.
This flower produces purple blooms, pink blooms or sometimes blue and is usually sold in markets as a present. In the Edo period, this flower was loved as a flower of the common people of Japan.
The flowers of fujibakama are tiny and bloom in clumps and they are usually used for medicinal purposes.
These seven flowers are mentioned in the verse taken out from the Manyoshu, (“Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves”, a collection of Japanese poetry from the 8th century) of the Japanese poet, Yamanoue Okura (山上億良), best known for his poems about children and commoners. The verse is as follows:
秋の野に 咲きたる花を 指折り
萩の花 尾花 葛花 瞿麦の花 女郎花
(Aki-no No-ni Sakitaru Hana-wo Oyobiori
Kakikazoureba Nanakusa-no Hana)
(Hagi-no Hana Obana Kuzuhana Nadeshiko-no Hana Ominaeshi
Mata Fujibakama Asagao-no Hana)
in autumn fields –
when I count them on my fingers
then they number seven
The flowers of hagi (bush clover),
obana (eulalia), kuzu (arrowroot),
nadeshiko (pink), ominaeshi (patrinia),
also, fujibakama (mistflower)
and asagao (morning face) flower.