Tagetes (possibly from the name of the Etruscan Tages) are known almost universally in North America as marigold, or variously as Mexican marigolds (or cempasúchil), African marigolds (usually referring to cultivars and hybrids of T. erecta, although this species is not native to Africa), or French marigolds (usually referring to hybrids and cultivars of T. patula, many of which were developed in France although the species is not native to that country). At least one species is a naturalized weed in Africa, Hawaii, and Australia.
"Marigold" is derived from "Mary's Gold", and the plant is associated with the Virgin Mary in Christian stories. Tagetes is not to be confused with the genus Calendula, which goes by "marigold" in some areas. See "marigold" for this and other species commonly called marigold.
Depending on the species, marigold foliage has a musky, pungent scent, though some varieties have been bred to be scentless. It is said to deter some common insect pests (although it is recorded as a food plant for some Lepidoptera caterpillars including Dot Moth), as well as nematodes. Tagetes are hence often used in companion planting for tomato, eggplant, chili pepper, tobacco and potato. T. minuta (Khakibush or Huacatay), originally from South America, has been used as a source of essential oil for the perfume industry known as tagette, and as a flavourant in the food and tobacco industries in South Africa, where the species is also a useful pioneer plant in the reclamation of disturbed land. Some of the perennial species are deer-, rabbit-, rodent- and peccary-resistant. The petals of Tagetes are rich in the orange-yellow carotenoid lutein and as such extracts of T. erecta are used as a food colour (INS-Number E161b).