Brachyglottis ×remotifolia - the elusive wild shrub daisy hybrid


Scientific name: Brachyglottis ×remotifolia (Brachyglottis from the Greek meaning ‘short tongue’ which refers to the short ray florets of the inflorescence; remotifolius from the Latin meaning ‘with widely distant leaves.’)


Family name: Asteraceae (Daisy Family)


Brachyglottis ×remotifolia is a handsome shrub which can grow to between 1 and 2 metres in height and is almost certainly a natural hybrid between rangiora (Brachyglottis repanda) and mountain leatherwood (Brachyglottis elaeagnifolia). But the origin and location of this ‘wild hybrid’ is a subject of some uncertainty and controversy.


Distinctive features of the plant include the broadly ovate dark green, slightly glossy upper surface of the leaf and the rusty buff colour beneath. The small compact daisy-like flowers are clothed with greyish-white tomentum (hairy covering) and occur on zigzag inflorescence (flower –bearing) branches. As would be expected the plant resembles some of the general characteristics of its assumed rangiora and mountain leatherwood parents.


B. ×remotifolia was found in widely disjunct locations, including the Pouakai Ranges in Egmont National Park (in 1914) and in rocky places near the mouth of Mokau River (1924 and 1955) but there are no recent sightings of the plant in the wild. The Mokau location is of a considerable distance from the nearest B. elaeagnifolia populations on Mt Taranaki. Hybridisation through long-distance pollen dispersal is considered unlikely as the parents of daisy hybrids tend to grow in close proximity to each other. So how did these plants colonise such a warm coastal habitat? Were they introduced by Maori or are they a relic from times of cooler climate? We may never know.


The Pouakai plant was found by R.W. Davies (keen bushman, prospector and brother of nurseryman V.C. Davies) on a bank of the Kiri Stream at an altitude of approximately 440m so keen botanists might like to try and relocate a plant there. The plant was made available commercially as early as 1930 (Duncan and Davies Nurseries, New Plymouth catalogue) under the earlier scientific name Senecio remotifolius. It was still listed in the1976 catalogue as a compact shrub of up to1.5m with greyish green leaves for $2.80.


The original 1924 Mokau sightings by W. A. Thompson were confirmed in October 1955 by R. O. Green who wrote, “As far as I know there are only 3 good plants and 5 half dead ones growing high up on a cliff face.” These particular plants also have not been seen subsequently despite some intensive searches and the high degree of modification of native vegetation cover on the banks of the Mokau River in the coastal zone make its survival unlikely.


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