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Plant Highlight: Euryops speciosissimus
The daisy family, formerly known as the Compositae but now re-christened as the Asteraceae, is particularly well-represented in South Africa. Many family members have become staples of horticulture worldwide, such as Gerbera and Gazania. Amongst the shrub-forming types, one of the most widely-grown is Euryops pectinatus, greatly admired for its abundant production of bright-yellow flowers. However, most gardeners are unaware that this is only one of dozens of species of Euryops, almost all of which come from South Africa and have yellow flowers.
Euryops speciosissimus, sometimes known by its synonym of Euryops athanasiae, is a relatively tall-growing shrub from South Africa’s west coast, whose Mediterranean climate is similar to that of California. It has the common name of the Clanwilliam Daisy, after the town of that name to the north of Cape Town. E. speciosissimus has bright-yellow flowers similar in appearance to those of its widely-cultivated cousin E. pectinatus, but with longer stems (about 12” or 30 cm) so that the flowers are held higher above the foliage. In the Asteraceae, what appears to be a single flower is in reality a cluster of tiny flowers, with the outermost ones (ray flowers) sporting a single petal to give the cluster the appearance of one large flower. In E. speciosissimus, the flower heads are about 3½” to 4” across. Our plant at RBG commences flowering in the fall along with the arrival of the rains, and continues through to spring. The term “speciosissimus” means “exceedingly showy”, and this attractive plant lives up to its name.
Plants of E. speciosissimus are narrower and taller-growing than its relative, reaching heights of up to 9 feet (3 m). The foliage is finely-divided into narrow, almost thread-like segments, so that plants are open and airy rather than dense. Because these bushes are tall-growing and tend to lack foliage at the bottom, they can look leggy when planted on their own, but are ideally suited to the middle or back of a bed, where they can rise up above their neighbors and show off their brightly-colored flowers. The stems have a white-washed appearance due to a waxy coating.