Paper Daisies - An Australian Wildflower

From August through to October Western Australia puts on its rainbow of colours as the wildflowers begin to bloom. Some 12,000 varieties will erupt into a carpet of colour. Many of these species have no common name and some are still waiting to be discovered.

A kaleidoscope of colour blankets the countryside. Bright orange banksias, yellow starflowers, hot-pink boronias and red ink sundews jostle for prominence and attention by the bewildered public who hardly know what to look at first.

Gabbyquoiquoi Creek bridgeCredit: Vince Evans - Copyright

Part of the joy of travelling the wildflower trail is coming across charming and unusual names for creeks, rivers and sidings.

The everlastings or paper daisies are possibly the most prolific and spread over acres of ground. The first daisies were collected in 1699 by William Dampier. These were of the Brachyscome genus and came from Shark Bay in Western Australia. It was introduced into European gardens before the middle of the 19th century and was the first of the native plants to be hybridised.

Everlastings belong to the Family Asteraceae.

Schoenia cassiniana is one of these papery flowers and appears in arid regions after good rains. It is common from the Gascoyne River across to Kalgoorlie and east to the deserts of the Northern Territory and South Australia. It grows to 40cm.

The Splendid Everlasting was once classified as Helipterum splendidum but is now known as Rhodanthe chlorocephala. It is an annual with large papery flowers. It grows in similar arid regions to Schoenia cassiniana.

Cultivated everlastingsCredit: Wikimedia - Author Casliber

Another variety found in the arid regions and blooming in early spring is Cephalipterum drummondii or Pom Pom Everlasting. It grows on red sandy soils and has heads of clustered flowers of either white or yellow with the colour forms sometimes mixing.

Moving further south into the Great Southern area of Western Australia, the Pink and White Everlasting (Rhodanthe chlorocephala subspecies rosea– sometimes called the Rosy Everlasting) was once prolific but much of its range is now under crops. It is a spring flowering annual which grows to about 40 to 50cm and is frequently cultivated for cut flowers. It dries well and may be pink and/or white with yellow or black centres. The flowers are small and star-like. This variety usually grows inland from the coast on sandy soils.

The sunrays are another group of everlastings. Rhodanthe manglesii (formerly Helipterum manglesii) has the common name of 'Mangles Everlasting' or 'Silver Bells'. This attractive species can be found from Kalbarri south to the Stirling Range and inland to Coolgardie in open woodland and on loamy soils. Captain James Mangles introduced the plant into cultivation in England in 1833. It is an easy to grow everlasting with attractive blue-green foliage. The silvery buds have a weeping appearance and produce beautiful pink or white nodding paper daisies. The silky blooms are bell-like and the plants reach a height of about 50cm.

Everlastings(64740)Credit: Vince Evans - Copyright

Paper daisies do best when the natural growing cycle is followed. As the soil cools down in autumn the seeds can be sown directly into the ground. The plants will grow slowly through the winter. This allows them to develop a strong root system. By spring they will be flowering prolifically. They look wonderful as informal drifts of colour. The best soils are those with a good proportion of washed river sand and well rotted compost. Keep the area free of weeds both before and after planting. The seeds are lightweight and easily blown away. Sow 3 grams of seed per square metre and mix seed batches with half a bucket of ordinary soil before broadcasting evenly across the surface. Everlastings will also make a wonderful display if sown directly into tubs. Keep moist until germination and apply a general purpose liquid fertiliser at three-weekly intervals.

The flower display is usually September through to November. Everlastings dry really well and can be used in dried flower arrangements. Everlastings also yield essential oil for use in therapy programmes.