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What’s Blooming in Paradise?: Camphor Daisy (Rayjacksonia phyllocephala)

By Staff | Jan 19, 2011

First impression: Cute, bright flowers have extra-large sunny yellow centers with petite slender petals in the same color. Oodles of flowers in multitudes, as are the seed pods in a wheat-colored hue. The seeds pods are upright and stiff carrying hundreds in seed in the supersized disk area. Our shrub has an herby look to it with fuzzy linear leaves. The leaves have a very obvious serration that is soft to the touch. Fragrance? ahh-lovely camphor essence, and I see butterflies and pollinators all around. You can see this brighten-your-day daisy blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Camphor Daisy is an aromatic herb and a must-have plant for any butterfly garden. Butterflies love-love-love any nectar from its plant family of Asteraceae. This huge family includes aster, daisy, and sunflowers… which means good sweet nectar. You will be thrilled to notice pollinators hovering like the holding pattern at the airport to sip from its sweet nectar. Its height is about 3-6 feet tall and just as wide with an erect to sprawling type manner. The plant’s habit is multi-stemmed with a single sunflower (1 1/2 inch wide) on every stem. The petals and centers are a 1960s type yellow-color and glow with sunshine. They remind me of all yellow dandelions.

The light green leaves are fuzzy and rough. When the slender toothed leaves are crushed a wonderful camphor scent emerges. Camphor is a naturally occurring aromatic compound which originally came from the Camphor Laurel Tree. Early in the 1900s, chemists discovered how to mimic its scent synthetically.

This herbal scent makes these daisies really great for cut gardens. Unfortunately, our gorgeous daisies are annuals, but last for many months and will flower all year round. Our star can also reseed itself for the next season. As they mature they will turn cement gray and dry wispy seeds are released in large quantities. I get grocery bags full. I collect the dried heads, store them in paper bags, and toss entire disks in the garden area where I would like them to grow. I never worry about opening them or covering them with soil; these seeds are survivors and grow.

This abundance is just what our birds are looking to consume. I often enjoy watching colorful warblers relishing the seeds. I can’t emphasize what a super habitat shrub this is. A grouping of Camphor Daisy may attract birds, bees, skippers, and butterflies. It will grow on a wide variety of soils and sand. I began my love of Camphor Daisy with the first plant I purchased from the SCCF nursery. Its native status puts it in the easy nature and lack of pests/disease category. It’s made for our tropical climate with its drought tolerance and need for full sun. Do you have a hard-to-grow-anything sunny spot? Try planting our star and see what happens!

Pros: Does well in sandy soil – Likes full sun – Easy to maintain/prune – It’s a survivor easily propagated by seeds – Pollinator attractor – Salt tolerance – Neighbors will wonder why you have all the butterflies – Great for a cottage garden look – Gives garden an herbal essence – Drought tolerant – Native – Great for cut flowers – Easy care – Birds will reward you with a song.

Cons: Seasonal plant – Fast grower – Pollinator attractor – Seed heads can be plentiful and airborne – Cold sensitive – Seed heads and flowers at the same time – Brings in the birds.

Conclusion: What a great addition to any garden! This flower will bring sunshine and smiles even on a gloomy day. Follow the brilliant rays of saffron to our tropical garden in paradise.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!