Xerochrysum bracteatum

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Xerochrysum bracteatum
Wild form of Xerochrysum bracteatum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Xerochrysum
Species: X. bracteatum
Binomial name
Xerochrysum bracteatum
(Vent.) Tzvelev

Bracteantha bracteata (Vent.) Anderb. & Haegi
Helichrysum bracteatum (Vent.) Andrews
Helichrysum lucidum Henckel[1][2]
Helichrysum chrysanthum Pers.[2][3]

Xerochrysum bracteatum is a flowering plant in the daisy family Asteraceae and comes from Australia. In English, the plant is usually called golden everlasting or strawflower. It was first described by Étienne Pierre Ventenat in 1803. Known as Helichrysum bracteatum for many years it was moved to a new category of plant Xerochrysum in 1990. It grows as a woody or leafy perennial or annual shrub. Depending on the type it can get up to a meter (3 ft) tall. The golden everlasting serves as food for different kinds of larvae (caterpillars) of butterflies, moths and skippers. Adult butterflies, hoverflies, native bees, small beetles and grasshoppers visit the flower heads.

The golden everlasting is very easy to grow. Many different coloured flowers were developed in Germany in the 1850s. Annual varieties in a host of color forms from white to bronze to purple flowers became available.

Plant anatomy[change | change source]

French botanist Étienne Pierre Ventenat described the golden everlasting as Xeranthemum bracteatum in his 1803 work Jardin de Malmaison[4]. The book was commissioned by Napoleon's first wife Joséphine de Beauharnais to make a list of rare plants that she had collected and grown at the Château de Malmaison.[5] The species name bracteatum is Latin, and refers to the papery bracts (often mistakenly called petals) of the flower heads.[6] Henry Charles Andrews transferred it to the genus Helichrysum based on the morphology of its receptacle in 1805,[7] and it was known as Helichrysum bracteatum for many years. Leo Henckel von Donnersmarck described it as Helichrysum lucidum in 1806, and Christiaan Hendrik Persoon as Helichrysum chrysanthum in 1807.[2] It was given the name Bracteantha bracteata in 1991,[8] when Arne Anderberg and Laurie Haegi placed the members that are known as strawflowers of the large genus Helichrysum into a new genus Bracteantha, and made B. bracteata the type species.[9] However, they were unaware that Russian botanist Nikolai Tzvelev had already placed X. bracteatum in the new, and at the time monotypic, genus Xerochrysum the previous year.[10] This name was derived from the Greek words xeros "dry", and chrysum "golden", likely relating to the nature of the distinctive bracts.[11] There was confusion for a decade with Bracteantha appearing in literature and the horticultural trade until it was clarified in 2002 that the latter name took precedence.[9] Strawflower is the popular name for X. bracteatum in Europe, while in Australia it is known as an everlasting or paper daisy.[6] An alternate name in 19th-century Europe was immortelle.[12] X. bracteatum itself is very variable and may represent several undescribed species.[9] Alternately, the Tasmanian species Xerochrysum bicolor may be combined with it in future taxonomic revisions.[13]

The Golden everlasting and its relatives belong to the Gnaphalieae or paper daisies, a large tribe within the daisy family Asteraceae. However, a 2002 molecular study of the Gnaphalieae has indicated the genus Xerochrysum is probably polyphyletic, as the two species sampled, X. bracteatum and X. viscosum, were not closely related to each other.[14] The Golden everlasting has been recorded hybridizing with X. viscosum and X. papillosum in cultivation, and possibly also Coronidium elatum and C. boormanii.[15]

Description[change | change source]

"Strawburst Yellow", bred in California, showing yellow bracts and orange central disc

The plant is an erect perennial, or occasionally annual, herb that is simple or rarely branched at its base. It generally grows to 20 to 80 cm (8–32 in) high, but can spread flat (prostrate) in exposed and windy areas such as coastal cliffs. The green stems are rough and covered with fine hairs, and are sturdy compared with those of other members of the genus. The leaves are lanceolate, elliptic or oblanceolate in shape and measure anywhere from 1.5 to 10 cm (0.6–4 in) long and from 0.5 to 2 cm (0.2–0.8 in) wide. They are also covered with cobwebby hairs. Sitting atop tall stems above the leaves, the flower heads range from 3 to 7 cm (1.2–2.8 in) across. Occasionally multiple heads arise from the one stem.[13] Like the flowers of all Asteraceae, they are made up of a central disc which contains a number of tiny individual flowers, known as florets; these sit directly on an enlarged part of the stem known as the receptacle.

Around the disc is an involucre of modified leaves, the bracts, which are petal-like, stiff and papery. Arranged in rows, these bracts curl over and enclose the florets, shielding them before flowering.[16] They create the impression of a shiny and yellow corolla around the disc. The intermediate bracts are sometimes white, while the outer ones are paler and often streaked reddish or brown.[17] These bracts are papery and dry, or scarious, with a low water content, unlike leaves or flower parts of other plants. They are made up of dead cells, which are unusual in that they have a thin primary and a thick secondary cell wall, a feature only found in sclerenchyma, or structural, cells, not cells of flowers or leaves.[18]

The individual tiny flowers are yellow.[17] Those on the outer regions of the disc are female, while those in the centre are bisexual. Female flowers lack stamens and have only a very short tube-shaped corolla surrounding a pistil that splits to form two stigmas, while bisexual or hermaphrodite flowers have a longer corolla, and (as in virtually all members of the family) five stamens fused at the anthers, with the pistil emerging from the center. The yellow corolla and pistil are located above an ovary with a single ovule, and surrounded by the pappus, the highly modified calyx of Asteraceae. It comprises a number of bristles radiating around the florets.[19] Yellow in color, they persist and are thought to aid in the wind dispersal of the 0.3 cm (0.1 in) long fruit.[19] The smooth brown fruit, known as a cypsela, is 2 to 3 mm long with the pappus radiating from one end.[20]

In the wild, Golden everlasting can be distinguished from X. bicolor in Tasmania by its broader leaves and cobwebby hairs on the stems, and from X. macranthum in Western Australia by the flower head color; the latter species has white flower heads whereas those of the Golden everlasting are golden yellow. Xerochrysum subundulatum from alpine and subalpine areas of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania is rhizomatous, and has markedly pointed orange bracts.[20] The eastern Australian species Xerochrysum viscosum can be distinguished by its rough and sticky leaves.[21]

Distribution and habitat[change | change source]

The Golden everlasting occurs in all Australian mainland states and territories as well as Tasmania.[17] It is quite common and can be found from North Queensland across to Western Australia; it occurs in all habitats except those that are in dense shade.[6] It grows as an annual in patches of red sand in Central Australia,[22] responding rapidly to bouts of rainfall to complete its life cycle.[23] It is common among granite outcrops in southwest Western Australia,[12] and is found on heavier and more fertile soils in the Sydney region, such as basalt-, shale- or limestone-based soils, generally in areas with a high water table.[24] Associated species in the Sydney Basin include blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) in open forest, and the shrubs Empodisma minus and Baloskion australe in swampy areas.[24] It has been reported growing in disturbed soil, along roadsides and in fields in the New England region in the United States.[25]

Ecology[change | change source]

The brightly colored bracts act as petals to attract insects such as hoverflies, native bees and small beetles that pollinate the florets.[16] Grasshoppers also visit the flower heads.[26] The caterpillars of Tebenna micalis have been recorded on this species, as have those of the Australian painted lady (Vanessa kershawi).[27] The tiny fruits are dispersed by wind, and germinate and grow after fire or on disturbed ground.[24]

Experimentation at the Waite Institute of the University of Adelaide showed that flower production was related to increasing day length, and in general, plants produced the most flowers from December to March. Varying planting times or artificially changing light levels might be ways to increase production of flowers outside these months.[28]

The water mould (oomycete) Bremia lactucae has infected commercial crops in Italy and California. In 2002 on the Ligurian coast, widespread infection of several varieties, most severely 'Florabella Pink' and to a lesser extent 'Florabella Gold' and 'Florabella White', resulted in leaf blistering and the development of chlorotic lesions on the leaves, and white patches on the undersides, particularly in areas of poor ventilation.[29] There was an outbreak of downy mildew in a crop of the Golden everlasting in San Mateo County, California in 2006, in which the leaves developed large chlorotic lesions.[30] A Phytoplasma infection damaged X. bracteatum crops in the Czech Republic between 1994 and 2001, causing poor growth, bronzing of the leaves and malformation of flower heads. Genetically, the pathogen was indistinguishable from the agent of aster yellows.[31] The root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne incognita) attacks and forms galls on the roots, which leads to the death of the plant.[24]

Farming and breeding[change | change source]

A European color form

The Golden everlasting had been introduced to farming in England by 1791.[32] German horticulturist Herren Ebritsch obtained material and developed it at his nursery in Arnstadt near Erfurt in Germany. He bred and sold varieties of many colors from bronze to white to purple, which spread across Europe in the 1850s. The bracts of these early forms tended to remain cupped around the flower head rather than flatten out like the native Australian forms.[6] These were also annual rather than perennial forms. Many were given names such as 'atrococcineum' (dark scarlet flower heads), 'atrosanguineum' (dark blood-red flower heads), 'aureum' (golden yellow flower heads), 'bicolor' (red-tipped yellow flower heads), 'compositum' (large multicolored flower heads), 'macranthum' (large rose-edged white flower heads), and 'monstrosum' (flower heads with many bracts), although today they are generally sold in mixed seed for growing as annuals.[33] Some colored forms of South African Helichrysum are thought to have been introduced to the breeding program, which resulted in the huge array of colors. The Golden everlasting was one of several species that became popular with European royalty and nobility from the early 19th century, yet were little noticed in Australia until the 1860s, when they became more prominent in Australian gardens.[32]

An orange-red flowered variety

Most varieties started in Australia in the latter part of the 20th century are perennials.[34] 'Dargan Hill Monarch' was the first of these, and many more have followed.[33] Profusely flowering, these come in many colors including white, yellow, orange, bronze, pink and red. Their commercial lifespan is generally around three years.[35] Queensland-based company Aussie Winners has a range of compact plants ranging from orange to white known as Sundaze.[36] Plants of this series usually have larger leaves.[37] This range won the Gran premio d'oro at the Euroflora exposition in Geneva in 2001, for the best new plant series in the previous three years. 'Florabella Gold', a member of the Florabella series, won the award for best new pot plant (vegetative) in the Society of American Florists' competition of 1999.[35] The Wallaby variety of the flower range of taller forms with narrow leaves and white, yellow or pink flowers.[38] Other commercial ranges include the Nullarbor series, and Queensland Federation daisies, including 'Wanetta Sunshine' and 'Golden Nuggets'.[35]

The Golden everlasting are easy to grow both from seeds and from cuttings, although named varieties will only grow true from cuttings.[6] Fresh seed germinates in 3 to 20 days and requires no special care.[13] Plants grow best in acidic, well-aerated, soils of pH 5.5 to 6.3, with low levels of phosphorus. They are sensitive to iron deficiency, which shows on the plant as yellowing (chlorosis) of the youngest leaves while the leaf veins remain green.[39]

The Golden everlasting can be grown in large pots or window boxes. It also makes a good starting plant in the garden before other plants become more established. Lower growing varieties are suitable for hanging baskets and border plantings.[38] The flowers attract butterflies to the garden.[40] Dried flowers are long lasting—up to some years—and are used in floral arrangements and the cut flower industry.[37] More robust longer stemmed forms are used for commercial cut flowers.[41] The main factor limiting lifespan of dried flowers is the wilting of stems, so flowers are sometimes wired into arrangements. Immersing flowers in glycerol or polyethylene glycol also lengthens lifespan.[42]

Versions[change | change source]

'Dargan Hill Monarch'

In botany, different versions of the same plant that have been bred for a special purpose are known as cultivars.

  • 'Dargan Hill Monarch' (Xerochrysum) was a natural form of the plant collected around 1.6 km (1 mi) inland from Cunninghams Gap in Southern Queensland in May 1961. It was registered in February 1977. It is a low perennial shrub that grows 60 to 80 cm (24–32 in) high and 1.5 m (5 ft) across. The leaves are grey, and the flowers are 7–9 cm in diameter and golden yellow in color.[43] It grows best with full sunlight and good drainage. Seeds and cuttings start growing quickly, but seedlings may be different from the parent.[34]
  • 'Cockatoo' (Xerochrysum) is a combination of a 'Dargan Hill Monarch' and a white-flowered perennial form of the Golden everlasting. It started in the garden of Victorian plantsman Doug McKenzie in Ocean Grove near Geelong in Victoria. It is a dense perennial shrub which reaches around a meter (3 ft) high and wide. The oblanceolate leaves measure 6 to 12 cm (2.4–4.8 in) long and are covered with fine hairs that give them a greyish cast. Fine hairs also cover the stems. The flower heads have light lemon-yellow leaflets and orange discs and average 7 cm (2.8 in) in diameter. They are held on long stems around 12–15 cm (5–6 in) above the leaves. The name 'Cockatoo' was chosen as the shape and color of the ray florets are reminiscent of the wing feathers of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.[44]
  • 'Golden Bowerbird' (Xerochrysum) is a combination of 'Cockatoo' to 'Dargan Hill Monarch' by Doug McKenzie. It has much larger flower heads than both parents but is a smaller shrub. It reaches 40 cm (16 in) high by 70 cm (28 in) wide. It is denser than that of other forms. The leaves are covered in fine grey hair. On stalks around 10 cm (4 in) above the leaves, the flower heads measure up to 9 cm (3.6 in) in diameter, although larger ones up to 10 cm are occasionally seen.[45] It is reported as producing fewer flower heads than 'Princess of Wales'.[46]
  • 'Princess of Wales' (Xerochrysum) is a cross between 'Dargan Hill Monarch' and an annual form. Starting in the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra, it was selected by employee Peter Ollerenshaw in summer 1983.[47] It was named in honor of a visit by Diana, Princess of Wales to the gardens in November 1985,[6] the same month registration was granted.[47] With compact leaves, this form reaches 60 cm (24 in) high and wide. Unlike its parent 'Dargan Hill Monarch', its leaves have hair only on the midrib on the leaf underside.[47] It flowers very profusely,[46] and the large flower heads are borne on stalks 5–9 cm (2–3.6 in) above the leaves. Unlike other forms, the stems wither and die naturally after flowering, making way for more new growth and flowers.[47] The flower heads are golden yellow and measure 6 cm (2.4 in) across.[6]
  • 'Diamond Head' (Xerochrysum) was a natural form collected around Diamond Head in New South Wales, where it is quite common on bluffs and cliffs. John Wrigley, curator of the Australian National Botanic Gardens at the time, applied to the ACRA to have it registered, which it was in February 1977.[6] Found on an exposed headland in nature, it grows as a low mat-like perennial shrub 8 cm (3 in) high and 60 cm (2 ft) across. The leaves are green and rough and the flowers are 3 cm in diameter and yellow in color with an orange disc.[48] It makes an ideal plant for rockeries, and strikes easily from cuttings during the spring growing period.[49]
  • 'Hastings Gold' (Xerochrysum) was a natural form from Hastings Point to the east of Murwillumbah on the New South Wales far north coast. It is a perennial herb with green bushy leaves reaching 25 cm (10 in) high and 70 cm (28 in) wide. The golden yellow flower heads measure 5 cm (2 in) across and are held on stalks 20 cm (8 in) above the leaves. It is smaller than the similarly colored 'Dargan Hill Monarch' and larger than 'Diamond Head'.[50]
  • 'Nullarbor Flame' (Xerochrysum) was a selection introduced into farming in 1997 that produces abundant red flowers with yellow discs and a diameter of 4.5 cm (1.8 in). The plant grows to 50–70 cm (20–28 in) tall and 50–80 cm (20–32 in) wide.[51]
  • 'Pink Sunrise' Xerochrysum was developed by Goldup Nurseries in Victoria in 1986. the origin is unknown but it is believed to be a hybrid. It is a small perennial that reaches 30 cm (12 in) high and 60 cm (24 in) wide. The flower heads are pink in bud, before opening as cream with orange discs.[52]
Color forms of 'Strawburst Yellow', center, 'Kimberley Sunset' (cream) bottom left, small bronze-flowered form 'Sundaze Dazette Mambo' (far right)
  • 'White Monarch' Xerochrysum was a spontaneous garden hybrid that resembles 'Dargan Hill Monarch' but with white flower heads with orange discs measuring up to 8 cm (3.4 in) in diameter.[53]
  • 'Lemon Monarch' (Xerochrysum) resembles 'Cockatoo', but its lemon-colored flower heads have fewer bracts.[46] It has bushy leaves.[54]
  • 'Strawburst Yellow' (Xerochrysum), patented as 'Stabur Yel', has large bright yellow flower heads averaging around 6.3 cm (2.5 in) in diameter. The result of a planned breeding program in Gilroy, California, it was bred by Jason Jandrew of Goldsmith Seeds from a lemon yellow-flowered form crossed with a yellow-flowered form in 2005. The pollination occurred in May, the resultant seed was sown in September, and what was to become the clone was chosen in December for its large flower size, color and compact leaves.[55]
  • 'Lemon Princess' (Xerochrysum) is thought to be a hybrid between the Golden everlasting and X. viscosum.[56]

References[change | change source]

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  48. Australian Cultivar Registration Authority. "Xerochrysum 'Diamond Head'". Descriptions of Registered Cultivars, ANBG website. Canberra, ACT: Australian National Botanic Gardens. http://www.anbg.gov.au/acra/descriptions/acc107.html. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  49. Hewett, Max (1977). "Helichrysum bracteatum "Diamond Head"". Australian Plants 9 (73): 205.
  50. Australian Cultivar Registration Authority. "Xerochrysum 'Hastings Gold'". Descriptions of Registered Cultivars, ANBG website. Canberra, ACT: Australian National Botanic Gardens. http://www.anbg.gov.au/acra/descriptions/acc159.html. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  51. Payne, Bill (1997). "New Cultivars now Released for Horticulture". Australian Plants 19 (153): 201–02.
  52. Australian Cultivar Registration Authority. "Xerochrysum 'Pink Sunrise'". Descriptions of Registered Cultivars, ANBG website. Canberra, ACT: Australian National Botanic Gardens. http://www.anbg.gov.au/acra/descriptions/acc492.html. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  53. Stewart, p. 147.
  54. King, Melissa (20 February 2004). "Fact Sheet: Oz Daisies". ABC Gardening Australia website. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s1048829.htm. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  55. "Stabur Yel". Canadian Food Inspection Agency website. Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 7 September 2010. http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/pbrpov/cropreport/stfl/app00006621e.shtml. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  56. Australian Daisy Study Group, p. 61.

Works cited[change | change source]

  • Australian Daisy Study Group (Barker, Judy; Greig, Joy; Peate, Natalie; Courtney, Bev; Salkin, Esma; Schaumann, Maureen; Armstrong, John; Thomlinson, Gloria) (2002). Everlasting Daisies of Australia. Melbourne, Victoria: Shannon Books. ISBN 0-9587439-6-7.
  • Stewart, Angus (2001). Gardening on the Wild Side. Sydney, New South Wales: ABC Books. ISBN 0-7333-0791-4.

Other websites[change | change source]