Plant Collector: Pachystegia insignis

Pachystegia insignis - one of our loveliest native plants

Pachystegia insignis – one of our loveliest native plants

We do a good line in native daisies in this country but few, if any are lovelier than this Marlborough rock daisy. The flowers are pristine white, but even when it is not flowering season, the leaves are big, rounded and heavy textured – glossy green on the upper side and felted white on the under side. That felting is called indumentum (sometimes tomentum).

In the wild, P. insignis grows on the eastern side of Marlborough. Apparently you can see it as you drive down the state highway but the only times I have driven it in recent times, I have been behind the wheel with my eyes fixed firmly on the road. It hangs onto the rocky banks, coping with drought and salt spray. This means it is not the easiest of plants to grow in a lush garden situation. It needs perfect drainage and an open, exposed site. Even then, we find mature plants can keel over and suddenly die from time to time.

To our ongoing embarrassment, our particularly good form here was stolen by my late mother from the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. She died 12 years ago (almost to the day), but her legacy lives on here. Pachystegias are small shrubs belonging to the asteraceae family. The “insignis” seems to mean distinguished or remarkable in this context.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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