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A giant among daisies

A giant among daisies
  • This kiwi native is a mat forming, evergreen perennial with striking silvery foliage in the winter and large daisy-like flowers in the summer

The Mountain Daisy, also commonly called the Cotton plant or Horse Daisy, belongs to the Celmisia genus of which the majority are native to New Zealand. The genus is in the Asteraceae family and consists of perennials and sub-shrubs often with silvery foliage and white daisy-like flowers with a yellow centre.

Celmisia semicordata is the biggest of the genus, with rosettes of sword- shaped leaves up to 30cm long. In the summer, long stems up to 50cm high carry the flowers which can be 8cm across. The flowers have a triple layer of petals and look like a common lawn daisy but much bigger.

The leaves are covered in fine, silky hairs, grey-green above and white underneath and eventually will form large 'hummocks'.

The Maori's used to peel the soft down away from the underside of the leaves and attach them together with fibres to make waterproof rain cloaks. The down was also packed inside leggings for warmth and for protection from spiny shrubs.

The Mountain Daisy is quite hardy and will adapt to most soil types. It is not drought tolerant however, and will need regular watering in the summer. It needs a position where it will receive some shade in the afternoon and the soil must be free draining as waterlogged soil will kill it. To keep the leaves looking at their best, avoid watering from above; aim the irrigation at the base of the plant.

Propagation is from cuttings or by division at the beginning of the summer. It does not set seed easily and a large percentage of the seed may not be viable.

C. verbascifolia is a smaller version which will grow to approximately 20cm by 20cm.