Who knew that the daisy family – or asteraceae – is one of the largest extended plant families in nature? Rivalling even the massive orchid group, in fact, with somewhere over 23 000 different daisy species. But really, it is the apparently simple charm of the daisy form, as with the poppy, that makes many of us smile. The sunny yellow doronicum has been lighting up the garden these past few weeks. To my embarrassment, I thought it was a geronicum but no, somewhere it had bedded into my memory under the wrong name. It is in fact Doronicum orientale, widely referred to in the UK by its common name of leopard’s bane. It is one of the earliest daisies of the season. The almost flat rosette of leaves grow from a small tuber below the ground and the root system is generally small and shallow. The flower stem can push upwards to about 50cm high and sets multiple blooms in succession. When it has finished, it gently fades back down and goes into a state of semi or total dormancy by late summer. This doronicum is native to southern Europe and the Middle East which may explain the timing of its dormancy period.
Botanically speaking, daisy flowers are not so simple after all. What we call petals are often individual ray flowers, with the fertile disk flowers being clustered in the centre (the bit that looks like a pincushion).
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.