Gerbera and other daisy-oid flowers

A gift from a friend a few days ago: a gorgeous, showy Gerbera plant, in bloom. An assortment of hybrid Gerbera flowers:


(Mine is orange-red, with a yellow center.)

Gerberas are often referred to as Transvaal daisies, with a bow to their land of origin and their daisy-like composite flowers — but then an extraordinary variety of composite or compositoid flowers have common names with daisy in them. In fact, daisy has no fixed reference as a botanical term, though common practice seems to fix on two species as the standards: the ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and the common daisy (Bellis perennis) — a “field daisy” and a “lawn daisy”, respectively, both having modest-sized flowers with white rays and yellow centers (or capitula).

Gerbera. From Wikipedia:

Gerbera … L. (Ancient specification: “African Aster”) is a genus of plants in the Asteraceae (daisy family). It was named in honour of German botanist and medical doctor Traugott Gerber (1710-1743) who travelled extensively in Russia and was a friend of Carolus Linnaeus.

Gerbera is native to tropical regions of South America, Africa and Asia. The first scientific description of a Gerbera was made by J.D. Hooker in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1889 when he described Gerbera jamesonii, a South African species also known as Transvaal daisy or Barberton Daisy. Gerbera is also commonly known as the African Daisy.

Gerbera species bear a large capitulum with striking, two-lipped ray florets in yellow, orange, white, pink or red [“warm”] colours. The capitulum, which has the appearance of a single flower, is actually composed of hundreds of individual flowers.

Gerbera is very popular and widely used as a decorative garden plant or as cut flowers. The domesticated cultivars are mostly a result of a cross between Gerbera jamesonii and another South African species Gerbera viridifolia. The cross is known as Gerbera hybrida. Thousands of cultivars exist. They vary greatly in shape and size.

[On the term capitulum, from NOAD2:

Anatomy & Biology   a compact head of a structure, in particular a dense, flat cluster of small flowers or florets, as in plants of the daisy family. ORIGIN early 18th cent.: from Latin, diminutive of caput ‘head.’]

Plant breeders have gone past the warm part of the color spectrum all the way to blue: intense blue, pale blue, blues ranging on one side through blue-greens all the way to green, and on the other side through violet-blues to violet and purple. From the cool side of the spectrum:


In the lawn, in the field. Some words on the two standard daisies. I’ve already posted specifically on the lawn daisy, Bellis perennis, with photos and this note on the word daisy:

Old English dæges éage day’s eye, eye of day (an allusion to the flowers’ closing at night and opening in the morning). Specifically Bellis perennis ‘common daisy’ [which closes at night], but also applied to Leucanthemum vulgare ‘oxeye daisy’, and, loosely, to similar daisy-like flowers.

Yes, the lawn daisy is a weed, and can be annoying; it spreads both by creeping and by sowing seed, and it grows so low to the ground that it evades mowers. But it’s pretty.

The field, common, or ox-eye daisy is even prettier, to my mind:


When I was growing up, this was what daisy, unmodified, referred to, period. It’s what kids used to make daisy chains, as garlands, bracelets, or crowns:


It’s a cultivated garden plant but also a nuisance, since it spreads both vegetatively and by seed; from Wikipedia:

Leucanthemum vulgare, the ox-eye daisy or oxeye daisy, is a widespread flowering plant native to Europe and the temperate regions of Asia and an introduced plant to North America, Australia and New Zealand. It is one of a number of family Asteraceae plants to be called a “daisy”, and has the additional vernacular names common daisy, dog daisy and moon daisy.

L. vulgare is a typical grassland perennial wildflower, growing in a variety of plant communities including meadows and fields, under scrub and open-canopy forests, and in disturbed areas.

Leucanthemum is from the Ancient Greek λευκός (leukós, “white”) and ἄνθος (ánthos, “flower”).

Leucanthemum vulgare is widely cultivated and available as a perennial flowering ornamental plant for gardens and designed meadow landscapes. It thrives in a wide range of conditions and can grow in sun to partial shade, and prefers damp soils. There are cultivars, such as ‘May Queen’ which begins blooming in early spring.

Leucanthemum vulgare became an introduced species via gardens into natural areas in parts of the Canada, United States, Australia, and New Zealand, where it is now a common weed. In some habitats it is an invasive species forming dense colonies displacing native plants and modifying existing communities, and is classified as a noxious weed.

It is difficult to control or eradicate, since a new plant can regenerate from rhizome fragments and is a problem in pastures where beef and dairy cattle graze, as usually they will not eat it, thus enabling it to spread.

Asters and daisies, oh my!  The common names for composite flowers (in the daisy, or aster, family) are something of a morass: daisy has no fixed reference (though a few writers insist that Bellis plants are the only “true daisies”), and a large number of Asteraceae look very much alike. Case in point: Michaelmas daisies, autumn-flowering composite plants that I looked at in a posting of 10/5/13. Under this heading come plants of the genus Symphyotrichum (formerly in the genus Aster), especially S. novi-belgii (the New York aster) and S. novae-angliae (the New England aster), both natives of North America that have spread to Europe. Daisy, aster, take your pick.

Also from a previous posting, there are the cheery golden marguerites or marguerite daisies (Anthemis tinctoria):


Clearly composites, but yellow and with shorter rays than the two standard daisy species, nor are they much like the plants called marguerite daisies, or just plain marguerites (Argyranthemum frutescens). Argyranthemum flowers (below) are marguerites, and arguably daisies, while Anthemis flowers, sometimes also called “marguerite daisies”, are (as some sites quip) neither marguerites nor daisies.


The marguerites in #6 look a lot like ox-eye daisies, but with yellow rays, so you can see why people might treat them as a type of daisy.

One more plant, this one a charming wildflower of this region: Erigeron glaucus:


Erigeron glaucus is a species of flowering plant in the daisy family known by the common name seaside fleabane, beach aster, or seaside daisy.

This wildflower is native to the coastline of Oregon and California where it grows on beaches, coastal bluffs and dunes. This is a perennial daisy reaching heights between 5 and 30 centimetres (2.0 and 11.8 in) (Wikipedia link)

There are other plants in the genus, all called fleabanes because their leaves were believed to repel fleas (I cannot vouch for their efficacy). And these plants are known as seaside daisies, though they’re not enormously daisy-like; and as beach asters, and they do look like asters.

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