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Both Functional and Attractive

This article was first published on 26 May 2015.

Helichrysum argyrophyllum

Helichrysum argyrophyllum

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

Arousing and amazing two of your senses as you walk along the rock garden at Dunedin Botanic Garden are the golden, musky smelling flowers of Helichrysum argyrophyllum.

Vivid yellow flowers, textured like straw, open up on bright days. The plant is transformed into a luminescent waterfall. As dusk approaches, or the day becomes too dull the flowers close back into tight buds.

The name Helichrysum comes from the very apt Greek words heliosmeaning sun and chrysos meaning gold; the specific name of this daisy, argyrophyllum refers to the silver foliage. Individual flower heads are around 1.5cm in diameter and surrounded by a circle of yellow papery bracts. The plant is only about 10cm high, but will cover an area of 2m. It is sometimes called golden guinea everlasting, the flowers successfully drying if picked when very young and hung upside down in a warm dry place.

Native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa, this trailing plant is very hardy and drought tolerant. The evergreen foliage is silver grey with small, spoon shaped leaves. It is a perfect plant for well drained banks and walls, growing quite quickly and able to be trimmed easily to size. To prune, lift the uppermost foliage out of the way, and cut back the trailing stems from underneath so that when the foliage is lowered again, the shrub looks untouched. Plants may be dead headed after flowering to keep them looking neat.

Robyn Abernethy is the Rock, Water & Alpine Collection Curator at the Dunedin Botanic Garden.