- Colorado State University
- Oxeye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum/Leucanthemum vulgare)
- Quick Facts:
- Other Links For Further Information:
- Washington State
- Leucanthemum vulgare
- Family: Asteraceae
- Why Is It a Noxious Weed?
- How would I identify it?
- Where does it grow?
- How Does it Reproduce?
- How Do I Control It?
- For More Information
- How to forage and cook ox eye daisies
- Ways to eat ox eye daisies
- Recipe for tempura battered ox eye daisies
- Ox-eye Daisy Seeds – Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum Wild Flower Seed
- Ox-Eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
- Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
Colorado State University
Oxeye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum/Leucanthemum vulgare)
State law: If you live in a “containment” area, it does NOT mean you can let the daisy grow freely on your property. Containment means that you need to suppress the weed (reduce its vigor and seed production) and keep it from spreading any further. If at all possible, it should slowly be eradicated, but work must be done every year nonetheless.
- A shallow rooted perennial which spreads by rhizomes. Characteristic ‘daisy-like’ flowers Plants initially develop as a basal rosette (middle picture). Lower rosette leaves occur on petioles and are from 1 1/2 to 6 inches long.
- Wildlife and livestock do not like to graze or walk through an area infested with Ox-eye daisy since the plants irritate their legs and faces. Very few animals will eat ox-eye daisy and ox-eye daisy infestations push out plants that wildlife prefer to eat, thus directly reducing wildlife habitat.
- Because oxeye daisy is such a showy, pretty plant, proper management is often neglected.
- Oxeye daisy should be mowed as soon as buds appear to reduce seed production. Flowers can produce viable seed when open for as little as 5 days. Plants will go to seed in mid-July to mid-August in Gilpin County.
- Root systems are shallow and the plant can be dug up and removed. Hand removal will have to be continued for several years because seeds may remain viable in the soil for a long time.
- No biological controls have been found for oxeye daisy.
- Proper grazing management will help prevent oxeye daisy from infesting your land. An adequate canopy of grass needs to be maintained to shade oxeye daisy and prevent it from becoming well established.
- Native daisies and asters are good alternatives.
Shasta daisy (left) vs. Oxeye daisy (right)
Other Links For Further Information:
Oxeye Daisy- CWMA
Daisy flowers make a lovely salad garnish, though I’ll admit that after choking down a whole flower, I cut the rest into bits. This salad uses ox-eye daisy greens too.
My class and I were invited to forage some edible noxious weeds on a public trail in Breckenridge, Colorado a couple years ago. We saw no signs of herbicide spraying there, and I had seen none in past years at that spot, so a couple of us took home nice bags of budding ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), each with a still-thick head of greens.
In this part of the Colorado high country where I live we have two daisies that are considered to be noxious or harmful weeds. Both the ox-eye daisy and the chamomile daisy are on List B of Colorado’s noxious weed list.
Crazy Daisies are Gross
The “crazy” or chamomile daisy has frilly leaves along its sturdy, tall stems. High country dwellers, look around. This daisy is all over town.
The more widespread of the two noxious daisies in Summit and Park counties is the chamomile daisy, also known as mayweed or scentless daisy (Tripleurospermum inodorum syn. Matricaria inodora, M. perforata). My friend Nick, who is a landscaper, calls it “crazy daisy.” The crazy daisy has classic daisy flowers with a yellow center and white petals (ray florets). The leaves are frilly or finely divided and quite emerald green when young. After the rosette stage, they bolt tall and proud on sturdy stems, attended by fuzzy leaves.
“All parts are edible except mature roots,” Cattail Bob Seebeck writes of the crazy daisy in his Survival Plants textbook (2012), though he recommends against the roots due to toughness. I have nibbled the greens many times in the hopes of finding some superb use for this invasive species. To this day, however, I find them impossibly bitter at all stages of development, even pickled. The flowers are okay, however.
If you are hoping to try this at home nonetheless, note that folks who have sensitive skin sometimes get a reaction when weeding chamomile daisies without gloves. Such individuals should of course proceed with care in touching them, let alone eating them. The chamomile daisy, along with its similar, “scented” relative Anthemis cotula—which is listed as edible but earns a low edibility rating of “1” from Plants for a Future (pfaf.org)—may cause reactions similar to hay fever in sensitive people.
Chamomile daisies are found in pretty much any and all disturbed locations up here, particularly roadsides and recent past construction projects. They are quite pernicious and pushy, navigating their way into many landscapes, though they do serve a role in adding biomass to lands laid bare by human hand.
You might notice chamomile daisies that have been sprayed with herbicides. This year for the first time we had some in front of the college where I teach. The sprayed daisies are unmistakable in their various stages of torture and death, hues ranging from green to brown and white as their stems curl grotesquely inward upon themselves. These should not be eaten for obvious reasons. The State of Colorado mandates control of chamomile daisy and other “noxious weeds” deemed harmful to agriculture, ranchland, or native ecosytems. There is a three-tiered list from the worst offenders (List A) to lesser offenders (List C). Local counties and towns implement the law in accordance to their own management plans, which generally involve herbicide applications.
Mechanical removal is another option, provided you pull them before they go to flower or seed so they can’t reproduce. This point is a reminder to brush off our pants and shoes if we walk through a field of noxious daisy flowers, before treading onward to native landscapes.
Ox-eye Daisies are Good Eatin’
Ox-eye daises (Leucanthemum vulgare syn. Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) are also on the noxious weed list in Colorado. Unlike the frilly leaves of chamomile daisies, ox-eye daisies have thicker, dark green, lobed leaves. Those on the basal rosette are spoon-shaped—narrow and elongated down low, then widening toward the tip, with scalloped or shallowly lobed margins. The stem leaves that develop later tend to be smaller, with lobes or teeth that can be thin, short, and widely spaced into funny little nubbins. The leaves are borne alternately along the stalk.
Ox-eye daisy greens make for nice fare if you can find them when they’re lush and green.
Many people like ox-eye daises—after all, they do make pretty flowers. So they plant or encourage them in their landscapes, and the daisies spread. High country folks looking to brighten their yards with daisies’ cheer should look instead to native daisies (Erigeron spp.), black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata), Summit County’s Weed Guide recommends.
I subjected the ox-eye daisies we got from the weed pull—which had already bolted but still sported leafy foliage, not to mention soft stems and flower buds—to many kitchen experiments, as I rarely get such a large bunch of them. I stripped the leaves and buds into salads, served them atop tacos, and added them to stir fries. I chopped them fine into a potato salad, and sautéed them in bacon fat to have first on an egg sandwich and later a tortilla pizza constructed with piles of yummy browned sausage. Oxeye daisies have a strong and unique, somewhat sweet flavor that I like—sparingly in mild dishes, en masse balanced by other strong-flavored ingredients.
The field behind Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek where our friend Bill Greenwood is chef is covered in ox-eye daisies. It makes for a pretty sight when they’re in bloom, but the best time to gather them for food is before they flower, when they are still in their low rosettes, but at their green-foliage peak. In late summer to fall, after the flowers have died and fallen away, more good basal rosette greens emerge. I like to take home a bag full each time I visit.
It’s nice to have fresh ox-eye daisy greens on hand. They have some substance to them, unlike all the frilly silliness of their chamomile cousins. Plus it’s nice to think you’re helping out with an ecological issue when you forage this free organic fare.
Eat Your Garden Daisies
You might be surprised to learn that even the common Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum)—a hybrid created by Luther Burbank’s cross-breeding experiments, now widely used in landscaping—is edible.
Shasta daisies are a large-flowered hybrid used in landscaping. They are edible with substantial, flavorful leaves.
There are numerous cultivars available. The one in my back yard has more substantial leaves than ox-eye daisies, some with a serrated edge so neat they look like they have been trimmed with fine pinking shears. The stem leaves get long and lance-shaped, with serrated or toothed edges. Shasta daisy flower heads are bigger than those of ox-eye daisy, with which they might most readily be confused. The greens are easy to throw into a dish, especially if they grow in your garden. My favorite preparation so far has been to serve them warm and slightly wilted, cut rough with dandelion greens and chopped walnuts, and tossed in a chile-infused, oil-vinegary yucca flower antipasto. Like ox-eye daisy greens, Shasta daisy greens have a strong and unique flavor, so it’s best to taste before you waste. I like them shredded into thin ribbons and incorporated into salads with other greens too.
Go easy on Shasta daisy greens at first. They have a strong flavor.
You Say Wild Chamomile, I Say Pineapple Weed
There’s yet another daisy-like plant you might know but not tend to notice unless you’re looking for it. It hangs around the edges of sidewalks and parking lots, and can also be used for food. This low-growing plant is pineapple weed, also known as “false chamomile” or “wild chamomile” (Lepidotheca suaveolens syn. Matricaria discoidea). It looks a lot like the crazy daisy with its frilly foliage, but instead of having full daisy heads, it makes pineapple-shaped clusters of disk flowers only, such that it looks like a tiny conical daisy without the white petals.
The ubiquitous pineapple weed is often found underfoot in disturbed ground.
If you crush these flower heads between your fingers you get a pineapple-like aroma. Or, some recognize an olfactory similarity to chamomile, to which wild chamomile is related. This flower head is the part commonly used—whether raw in salads or steeped for tea. The frilly leaves are pretty and edible too. They lend a nice visual character to a dish—but go easy, as they are rather bitter.
I have made salad dressings and infused vodkas with pineapple weed flowers, with good results. Melany Vorass Herrera includes a recipe for pineapple weed sugar cookies in her book, The Front Yard Forager (2014). Pineapple weed is not a noxious weed list species in my state, but it does have weedy tendencies, following humans around wherever we wreak havoc on the environment. It’s best to seek out a clean location if you plan to eat them—a spot not trodden by too many feet, or situated next to a busy road.
A Tale of 10,000 Daisies
I have not done an actual count of how many edible daisies and daisy-like flowers there are. The number 10,000 is an exaggerated estimate, to which I am prone. But there are many more, in the Aster family, that are edible. Get excited, people. The buck so does not stop here.
This story was originally published in the August 2015 Wild Edible Notebook. The Notebook is currently on hiatus. Stay apprised of what’s on the horizon by joining the email list at page bottom. Thanks!
Species Leucanthemum vulgare
Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is a short-lived perennial that decreases forage for wildlife, decreases local plant biodiversity, and may compromise vegetative ground cover due to its growth form that results in exposed soil.
Considered regionally noxious under the BC Weed Control Act, oxeye daisy is of major concern in the Cariboo, Okanagan, Peace River, Thompson, and Omineca. It occurs at low- to mid-elevations in grasslands and dry to moist forests, and is present in the Kootenays, Lower Mainland, and Vancouver Island.
Oxeye daisy has daisy-like flowers at the end of course, slender stems, with lower spoon-shaped leaves. Central yellow disks grow 10-20 milimeters wide and white ray flowers 1-2 centimetres long. The plant can grow up to 1 metre in height at maturity. Oxeye daisy is often confused with the ornamental Shasta daisy, which has larger yellow disk (2-3 cm) and white ray flowers (2-3 cm).
Oxeye daisy reproduces by seed and underground stems. A single plant produces 26,000 seeds and dispersal from parent plants lead to nearby infestations. Due to its unpleasant taste, most grazers avoid this plant, leaving it to spread easily within grazed grasslands, pastures, and rangelands.
A few native and ornamental alternatives to plant instead of oxeye daisy include: White Swan Coneflower; White New York Aster; Cutleaf Daisy; Alpine Aster; and Beach Fleabane Daisy. Read more about these alternatives in the Grow Me Instead booklet for BC.
Other Common Names: white daisy, whiteweed, field daisy, marguerite, poorland flower
Weed class: C
Year Listed: 1988
Native to: Asia and Europe
Is this Weed Toxic?:
not known to be
WAC 16-752; WSDA Quarantine list (prohibited plant list)
Why Is It a Noxious Weed?
It aggressively invades fields where it forms dense populations and decreases plant species diversity. Oxeye daisy decreases crop yields and is a weed of 13 crops of 40 countries. It is a particular problem in pastures. Oxeye daisy was changed from a Class B to a Class C noxious weed in 2013.
How would I identify it?
Oxeye daisy is a perennial herbaceous plant that reaches 1 to 3 feet tall. It has shallow, branched rhizomes and adventitious roots. The entire plant has a disagreeable odor when crushed.
Single flowerheads at the ends of stems have brown-edged, green bracts at their base. Each ‘daisy’ is a cluster of many flowers, the ray flowers are white and look like petals. The disk flowers are small and yellow and make up the center.
Leaves are alternate and lance shaped with coarse teeth or lobes. Basal leaves with petiole (leaf stalk) and stems leaves become sessile (no stalk) and smaller in size moving up the stem.
Stems are unbranched or branches near the tip.
Fruit Seed Description
Seeds are small and have 10 small ridges.
May Be Confused With
There are many plants referred to by common name as a daisy. Be careful of wildflower seed mixes. If you need help with plant identification, contact your county noxious weed coordinator.
Where does it grow?
Oxeye daisy is found in grasslands, overgrazed pastures, waste areas, meadows, railroad rights-of-way and roadsides. Please click here to see a county level distribution map of oxeye daisy in Washington.
How Does it Reproduce?
Oxeye daisy can spread both vegetatively and by seed.
How Do I Control It?
General Control Strategy
In pastures, mowing as soon as the first flowers open can eliminate seed production. However, mowing may stimulate shoot production and subsequent flowering in areas with adequate growing seasons.
Because of its shallow root system, oxeye daisy is easily killed by intensive cultivation.
Please refer to the PNW Weed Management Handbook, or contact your county noxious weed coordinator.
For More Information
See our Written Findings for more information about oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare).
Report on oxeye daisy from the book “Weed Control in Natural Areas in the Western United States”
Cowlitz County NWCB Fact Sheet on oxeye daisy
Spokane County NWCB Fact Sheet on oxeye daisy
Lincoln County NWCB Brochure on oxeye daisy
How to forage and cook ox eye daisies
Known commonly as ox eye daisy or dog daisy, this tall grassland flower native to Europe has edible flowers and flower buds. Its botanical name, Leucanthemum vulgare, derives from the ancient Greek words leucos – meaning white – and anthos, meaning flower. It thrives on verges, hedgerows and in meadows and blooms from late spring through to autumn.
Ways to eat ox eye daisies
The flowers are tasty eaten raw and added to salads or desserts. The flower buds can be pickled like capers and the flowers can be tempura battered. These taste a bit like pineapple sweets!
Recipe for tempura battered ox eye daisies
- 20 ox eye daisy flower heads
- 1 cup of plain flour
- A pinch of bicarbonate of soda
- A few tablespoons of ice-cold fizzy water or ginger beer (amount varies depending on consistency)
- A handful of sesame seeds
- A pinch of spice
- Soya sauce
- Sweet chili sauce
- A dash of sesame oil
- Icing sugar for dusting (for a sweet version)
- Mix the dry ingredients and, with a balloon whisk, slowly add the liquid until you get a mustard-like consistency – you may not need to add all of it.
- Dip the flowers in to the mix, while holding the stem, and then drop them carefully into the hot oil (the weight and wetness of the batter mix will have stuck the petals together into a blob, but they will open up into star-like shapes once fried).
- While they are cooking, flip them over gently so they get an even colour.
- After a few minutes, they will have turned nice and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and blot on kitchen roll.
Sweet or savoury versions
You can enjoy your tempura battered ox eye daisies plain or you can experiment a little.
To turn them into a sweet snack, dust with icing sugar and serve with ice cream or a dessert of your choice.
For a savoury version, try adding some sesame seeds to the original batter (adding a pinch of spice is another idea, but be careful not to lose the flavour of the flower bud). A dipping sauce made with a combination of soya sauce, sweet chili sauce and a dash of sesame oil would work nicely alongside them.
Try Emma’s recipes for Moules marinières, for preparing Alexanders or foraged winter salad with deep fried Camembert.
Emma’s golden rules of foraging
- Choose easily recognisable plants. If you’re new to foraging, don’t choose plants that are easily confused with others. Some plants can be poisonous, especially mushrooms, so don’t risk it. As foraging guru Richard Mabey wrote in his brilliant Food for free book, ‘Indigestion brought on by uncertainty about whether you have done yourself in can be just as uncomfortable as real food poisoning!’
- Invest in a good field guide. Take along a guide that includes illustrations or photos, as well as Latin names. These botanical names can give great clues about the plant, such as its habitat. For example, the suffix montana means it grows in the mountains, maritimus denotes that it is found on the coast, halimus in the dunes, while officinalis shows that it is a medicinal plant.
- Keep hygiene in mind. Avoid picking plants which may be dirty or polluted. For example, pick from areas away from the road. Also, don’t gather from low down along a path, where dogs or livestock may have brushed past. Don’t forage straight after a heavy rainfall, when plants in the ground – and shellfish – may be contaminated with run-off from the fields, which can contain chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Always give your leaves, flowers, fruit, nuts and roots a good wash before use.
- Don’t be greedy. Remember, you’re sharing nature’s harvest with wildlife too, so don’t take all of it. Also, be careful not to damage plants. If you only need the leaves, don’t pull them up by the roots; use a pair of secateurs. That way there’ll be lots more to harvest next year too.
- Remember where you found it. Make a note of the lane, patch of land, or beach where you found the plant, so that you can come back to that hotspot next year as well.
Ox-eye Daisy Seeds – Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum Wild Flower Seed
Approximate seeds per pound: 859,000
USDA Zones: 3 – 9
Height: 24 inches
Bloom Season: Summer and fall
Bloom Color: White
Environment: Full sun
Soil Type: Well-drained, pH 5.2 – 7.0
Deer Resistant: Yes
Average Germ Time: 14 – 28 days
Light Required: Yes
Depth: Do not cover the seed but tightly press into the soil
Sowing Rate: 2 ounces per 1,000 square feet or 5 lbs per acre or 7 – 8 seeds per plant
Moisture: Keep moist until germination
Plant Spacing: 18 inches
Care & Maintenance: Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum Ox-eye Daisy) – To create a lovely meadow, sow Ox-Eye Daisy seeds directly outdoors. Known for its long bloom season, the Ox-eye Daisy is a well-known and popular flower. It readily establishes from Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum seeds and loves a sunny spot. Ox-eye Daisy makes a great cut flower as well.
The Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum Ox-Eye Daisy is is one of our love-hate wildflowers. Almost everyone loves them for the beautiful, long-lived flowers and it is established in all 50 states and in Canada; however, many states consider Oxeye a weed, so check to see if its allowed in your area. Common roadside daisies grow anywhere, including in wet spots, and form tough big root masses with large blooming clumps.
Sow Chrysanthemum flower seeds directly outdoors in the late fall. The cold winter temperatures actually help the flower seeds to germinate in the spring when the temperatures warm up. Pinch back young daisy plants to keep them bushy. Grow Chrysanthemum plants in a rich, well-drained, evenly moist soil and in full sun. Good drainage in winter is essential for Oxeye Daisies. Deadhead the spent flowers regularly. Tall plants may require staking. Purchase Ox-eye Daisy seeds in bulk to cover large meadows.
Shake ‘n Seed – We are now offering shaker bottles filled with our seed starting matrix: rich soil, gardening sand, water absorbing crystals, and starter fertilizer. This not only helps dispense your seed, but it gets it off to a great start! Simply remove lid from shaker bottle, add seed from packet, put back on lid, shake the bottle vigorously for 15 seconds, and then shake your way to beautiful new plants! Use Shake ‘n Seed over good quality soil, and then gently water to keep seed moist until it sprouts. Great for ground covers or mass planting flower seeds.
Ox-Eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
Description of OxEye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum).
Oxeye daisy is very hardy and its basal glossy mid to dark green laves can stay green in all but the harshest climates. The leaves are narrow only 0.75″ ( cm) wide but very long up to 5″ (cm). They are basically oblong with a rounded end and small spiky sections along each side. This is technically known as dentate. During late spring long stiff thin stems rise from the leaves. Smaller leaves cling to these stems in an alternate pattern and often clasp the stem. These leaves are much smaller than the basal leaves but basically the same shape and color. Stems usually branch near the base of the plant but not in the last 12-15″ ( cm) when they rise mostly leafless with a few tiny leaves clinging to the stem at wide separations. The top of the stem is one single large flower head. Each flower can be from 1- 3″ ( cm) across and is a typical white daisy. 15-34 ‘petals’ that are slightly notched at the tips and surround a large circular yellow center that consists of numerous tiny disk florets each of which has 5 tiny lobes at its apex. The plant blooms in early to mid summer and can last around 30 -45 days. The root system is densely fibrous and forms offsets from short rhizomes that can form clumps 1-2 feet ( cm) wide. This plant often forms dense colonies where it is allowed to grow undisturbed.
Growing OxEye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) from Seed.
Sowing Indoors: Plants like some light to germinate so cover extremely lightly with fine potting mix, using a sieve to get a fine even coating. For more details see our general growing instructions. Seeds usually germinate in about 10-30 days in temperatures around 59 to 68°F (15 to 20°C). Transplant when seedlings are large enough to handle and gradually harden off in shaded areas before exposing to full sunshine.
Plant out in desired location after all risk of frost has past. Space 12 to 18in (30 to 45cm) apart or more as plants will expand greatly over time.
Sowing Direct: Seeds can be sown directly if desired. Best sown either in spring or fall. Prepare bed and remove all weeds that will complete with the new plants. Sow seeds either in rows no more than ½” (12 cm) deep. Alternatively seeds can be generally scattered for a more natural look. If choosing this method collect a pile of soil before you begin. When seed has been broadcast use a sieve (NOT one from the kitchen) to shake soil over the top of the area of seeds and cover them lightly.
No matter which method you choose place sticks, tape or some other marking system to indicate where you have planted your seeds. Water using the mist setting on the hose daily until the seedlings appear and grow large enough to change to the spray setting. When seedlings reach 3″ in height watering can be reduced unless there is no rain.
Location and Care of OxEye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum).
Prefers a sunny location in well drained poor soil. It most likes sandy soil and does not tolerate moist wet or rich soils. Ideal for areas of dry ground that needs covering. Does not do well if the soil is too rich so areas that have been underdeveloped are ideal.
Very tough and hardy will give a great ground cover once established. Will easily self seed and increase in numbers. Foliage will stay green in most zones usually up to around 4b or 5 at most unless the winter is particularly harsh.
Once the plants have finished flowering they can be mown down with a conventional mower. This will often bring on a second flush of flowers just on shorter stems. If plant spreading is desired leave mowing until plants have seeded otherwise cut down just after flowering finishes.
Medical uses of OxEye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum).
The young leaves can be used in salads and a tea made from the whole plant has been used as a home remedy to treat asthma and whooping cough. A distilled water made from the flowers is an effective eye lotion in the treatment of conjunctivitis.
While an enchanting flower some states consider it as a noxious weed because it will spread through meadows and pasturelands. It is not a threat to intact prairies and savannas, but readily invades disturbed ground. Domestic animals will eat it but this may impart an off-flavor to their milk. The plant can have a disagreeable odor to some people when cut or crushed. It can also invade lawn grasses and may become a problem as it tolerates mowing.
marguerite, field daisy, white daisy, moon daisy, moon-penny, dog daisy
The Ox-eye daisy is a familiar and attractive grassland perennial and our largest native member of the daisy family. It has a medium tall un-branched stem topped by a solitary composite flower of white rays (petals) surrounding a yellow disc floret. The basal leaves of Ox-eye daisy are quite distinctive with their toothed spoon shape and long leaf stalks.
Commonly found growing in bold swathes on grassy banks and roadside verges it flowers from June to August.
This British native wildflower loves well-drained grassland with a neutral soil. It is quite at home in pastureland and meadows which are cut or moderately grazed. It can often colonize open ground if left to its natural devices and is particularly rampant in fertile soil.
Sometimes mistaken for the bold Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum), this species has smaller blooms 3 to 5 cm (1 to 2in) wide and flowers earlier and longer than the Shasta Daisy. Oxeye Daisies are popular with Mason Bees and hoverflies.
The Ox-eye Daisy is one of the most familiar of all summer flowers. They can be planted at almost any time of year, though care should be taken to keep new planting well watered in summer.
When seen naturalised in drifts in a sunny wildflower meadow, adorning roadside and meadows or even in a little corner of the garden they are spectacular.
Sow in August to September for early summer flowering the next year or sow directly where they are to flower in March to April
Sow seed on the surface of lightly firmed, moist seed compost in pots or trays. Cover seed with a light sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Keep at a temperature of between 15 to 20°C (59 to 68°F). After sowing, do not exclude light as this helps germination. Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged; germination can take between 10 and 30 days.
When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost, 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) apart. For best results, provide any ordinary, well-drained soil in full sun.
Seeds can be broadcast in drifts of colour or they can be sown in more formal beds and borders. Sow in spring to early summer when all risk of frost has gone.
Sow the seed in short drills 12mm (½ in) deep from March to May, at temperatures around 20°C (68°F). Cover lightly with soil, mark the sowing areas with a ring of light coloured sand and label if sowing more than one annual in the same bed.
Seeds germinate in less than two weeks. The seedlings will appear in rows approx 6-8 weeks after planting and can be told from nearby weed seedlings quite easily. Thin the seedlings out so they are finally 4 to 6 in apart by early summer.
Alternatively, leave them to grow as small clumps, of 4 to 6 plants every 12in or so. Compost should be kept slightly moist, but not wet at all times.
If deadheaded, you will get a second flush of blooms. Its seeds are set as early as June right through to August. Ungrazed plants can produce as many as 4000 seeds, making it a good coloniser of bare ground. However, it does not like nutrient rich soils and so numbers have decreased on improved (fertilised) land.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Wildflower and Wildlife Gardens, Flower Borders and Beds
Leucanthemum vulgare is a widespread flowering plant native to Europe and the temperate regions of Asia.
The genus name Leucanthemum is taken from the Greek leukos, meaning ‘white’ and anthos meaning ‘flower’.
The species name vulgare means ‘common’, a simple common wildflower.
It has the vernacular names common daisy, dog daisy, margarite, moon daisy, and ox-eye daisy.
The word daisy comes from two Anglo-Saxon words: daeges and eage, which mean “day’s eye”. When the flowers open, the white ray flowers uncover and surround the yellow disk flowers at the centre. The yellow tube flowers resemble the Sun, so the flower is considered to be the “eye” of the day.
Ox-eye daisy means “a token”. In the Middle Ages, the knight who wore two daisies on his shield was the “Lady’s” choice. If a Lady wore a crown of daisies, it meant that she had not chosen her suitor. In the Language of Flowers, Daisy means “innocence” (given its simplicity and whiteness), “preference”, or “beauty and innocence”.
The oxeye daisy was also known as Marguerite after the French princess who adopted it as her official emblem. Princess Marguerite of Angouleme (1282-1317) was known as Daisy. She was the sister of King Francis of France and the second wife of King Edward I of England.
The name Daisy has been used as a diminutive form of Margaret in England since the Middle Ages, but did not catch on as an independent given name till the Victorian Era, when other floral names came into fashion. HRH Princess Margaret of Connaught (1882-1920) the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria was nicknamed “Daisy”.
It’s that time of year when the oxeye daisies are at their exuberant best, when their oversized, gleaming white blooms sparkle across grassy cliffs, along waysides and throughout our more flowery dairy meadows. I’ve seen plants little more than an inch high on the cliffs of the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall that have been evolved into squat submission by the full force of Atlantic gales, but it is in dreamy lowland meadows – largely of our imagination – where this beautiful daisy reaches perfection. A grand, final floral statement, as the buttercups and orchids fade, and as most of our meadowland flowers and grasses turn their attention to seed production.
Ox-eye daisies epitomise that near-vanished habitat, our traditional flower-rich meadowland, which along with the cuckoos, hedgerow elms, and the hum of myriad insects (remember the days of insect-spattered summer windscreens?) seem to express more than any other habitat the soul of the English countryside.
Until recently, it has seemed to me that meadows have been a poor cousin to our woodlands, simply forgotten in our rush to plant new shelterbelts, sylvan groves and expansive plantations for wildlife and timber alike. We have seen the demise of the Grasslands Trust in the past few months, for want of support. We know that livestock raised on flower-rich pasture are happier and healthier; that the permanent pasture needed to feed grass-fed livestock sequesters more carbon than the ploughlands used to produce grain-fed meats; that ancient grassland helps to protect our water supplies. Yet we sat by in the past 60 years or so as more than 97% of our meadowland has been extinguished, physically drained and ploughed out of existence, or force-fed a diet of herbicides and fertilisers like some luckless foie gras goose.
But a meadowland renaissance seems to be under way. Gardeners are converting sterile lawns into their own small patches of lost England, letting the grasses grow tall, and the flowers recolonise. I would recommend the oxeye daisy as one of the first and easiest to introduce: the failsafe way would involve letting an existing lawn grow tall through the summer months, only to give it a “short back and sides” in the early autumn, scalping the grasses sufficiently to leave plenty of bare earthy patches for seedling establishing. Then either dibble in plug plants of the daisy, or sow fresh seed thinly across the denuded plot: they’re pretty well guaranteed to prosper, soon growing to form lusty clumps. My only request would be that you get your plugs or seed from a reputable source, using plants of local provenance.
Would I extend the same gardening rationale to the countryside, to recreate those lost rural idylls? At the risk of upsetting the merry meadow-makers in the conservation community, on balance I would resist. I have spent the past few days scouting (aka trespassing) across various meadows that are in the process of naturally reverting from barren farmland to flower-haven, and I have been rather encouraged by what I have seen. At one extensive farm in the southern Cotswolds, an owner has allowed 150 acres to revert to meadowland, providing the right management conditions, but little else (he has certainly not sown an all-singing, all-dancing mixture of seeds from a commercial supplier). Here, three distinctive meadow types are developing before our eyes – with lesser stitchwort, meadow buttercups and sorrel on the silty, acid soil; mouse-ear-hawkweed, birds-foot trefoil and ox-eyes on the lime-rich, brashy forest marble and loam soils; and clustered rush and common spotted orchids (500 spikes in one spot) on poorly-draining clays. Hares and partridges abound, and skylarks in the heavens above are positively deafening. And all of this just 10 years in the making. More species will make their entry in due course: I am certain that bee and pyramidal orchids will be among the next to appear, as haymaking reduces the nutrients in the soil and, in turn, thins the exuberance of the grasses, allowing more desirable species a look-in.
I appreciate that this land owner has been lucky, inasmuch as these colourful flowers still linger in small numbers along local hedgerows, and he has been able to take advantage of these to fill his fields with flowers: conversely there will be areas of Britain that have been so resolutely trashed by modern farming that such diversity has wholly vanished, perhaps necessitating sown seed mixes. But I believe that his situation is still typical across considerable swathes of Britain, and the end result – of naturally-regenerating meadows – is ultimately more rewarding. The species recolonising are more faithful to the old grasslands of his particular district, occur in more naturalistic patches (sown mixes spread species evenly), and the whole process is both cheaper and (in my view) more natural and more true to the aims of wildlife conservation than simply applying gardening logic to the countryside.
Much as I do love oxeye daisies, I do fear that as we recreate lost grassland landscapes from seed packets, we are losing the real diversity of plant communities that give so much character and distinctiveness to our different regions. Take a botanist worth his or her salt into an ancient grassland and he’ll be able to tell you about the soils at your feet, the management that the grassland has received over the years, and he may even tell you precisely where you are. In short, the species give meaning to the landscape – telling us much about how the countryside has come into being, and about ourselves as a species as well.
Yet so many of the seed mixes that we buy off the shelf are simplistic blends of iconic and attractive species such as oxeye, betony, yellow rattle, knapweed, meadow buttercup and scabious, a one-mix-fits-all solution to a countryside in crisis. A process of Ikea-isation is taking place, and ox-eyes are the Billy bookcases of our countryside. True, they are sturdy, practical, cheap and easy to install, but we are in danger of making our countryside ever more uniform, losing that meaning that has taken centuries to develop – and that could be allowed to develop if we manage our fields in a gentle manner, and let the plants and animals do the rest.
If you want to know more about meadows and the traditions surrounding them, I cannot recommend enough George Peterken’s new tome on the subject, called, appropriately enough, Meadows. Informative, insightful and inspiring, it’s hugely worth a detailed read.
• Andy Byfield is one of the founders of the wild plant charity Plantlife.
Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
Synonyms: Chrysanthemum leucanthemum
Description: Introduced to North America as an ornamental in the 1800s. Carries several crop diseases.
Habit: Erect; perennial; 8-24 in tall forb usually with unbranched stems.
Leaves: Alternate, lower leaves up to 5 in long, lobed or toothed, stalked; upper fewer, smaller and becoming stalkless.
Stems: Hairless; angled or furrowed; one plant can have up to 40 stems.
Flowers: 1-2 in across, mostly naked flower stalk on main stem, sometimes branching from leaf axils near the top, 15-35 white petals golden yellow button shaped disc in the center; up to 3/4 inch across.
Fruit and seeds: Seed pod, cylindrical, dry, 10 ribs and no fluffy pappus, can produce up to 200 seeds.
Habitat: Native to Europe. Found in disturbed sites, fields, pastures.
Reproduction: By seed.
Similar species: Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum xsuperbum); Stinking chamomile (Anthemis cotula); Corn chamomile (Anthemis arvensis).
Monitoring and rapid response: Hand-pulling for small infestations.
Credits: The information provided in this factsheet was gathered from the Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium and the USDA PLANTS Database.
Individual species images that appear with a number in a black box are courtesy of the Bugwood.org network (http://www.invasive.org).Individual photo author credits may not be included due to the small display size of the images and subsequent difficulty of reading the provided text. All other images appear courtesy of Google (http://images.google.com).
USDA Plants NatureServe Weeds US
Bugwood Network Google Images