Name: Asagao (朝顔) Morning Glory
Seasonal Association: summer
When To Wear It: June to mid-September
The morning glory was originally introduced from China for medicinal use as a laxative during the 9th century. The plant was well established during the Heian period, and there is a minor character named Princess Asagao present in The Tale of Genji. During the Edo Period, the asagao was cultivated as an ornamental plant. Historically, asagao was considered an autumn motif in the pantheon of seasonal waka poetry, and it is sometimes included in the classical seven flowers of autumn (see below). However currently, the asagao has come to represent summer more than autumn. In fact, it is one of the few flowers today that is instantly recognized as a summer motif in Japan.
Aki no nanakusa (秋の七草):
The seven flowers or grasses of autumn. It’s unknown who first put together this group of plants as a representation of autumn, but it is a classic theme of even the oldest Japanese poetry.
hagi (bush clover)
susuki (pampas grass)
nadeshiko (dianthus, pink, or wild carnation)
ominaeshi (valerian or maiden flower)
kikyo (Chinese bellflower) NB: occasionally, asagao (morning glory) is substituted for kikyo.
For more information on aki no nanakusa, check out http://www.urasenke.org/flowers/autumn.php
The easiest way to identify an asagao is to look for a thin, five pointed star the reaches out from the center of the flowers to the edges of the petals. This star will always be a different colour than the surrounding petals. The petals of an asagao will not be distinct, but will be a circle with varying degrees of smoothness around the edges. Another identifying feature of the asagao is its trumpet-like shape. The leaves of the asagao have three points all pointing downwards.