Leucochrysum albicans

Distribution Map
Family: Asteraceae
Distribution: Tablelands from south east Queensland through to western Victoria, extending to alpine regions. Coastal and mountain areas in Tasmania.
Common Name: Hoary sunray
Derivation of Name: Leucochrysum....From Greek, leuco, white and chrysos, gold, referring to the colours of the flower heads in most species.
albicans...From Latin, albico, to become white; derivation is obscure.
Conservation Status: Subspecies albicans var tricolor is listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act* (ie. facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future, as determined in accordance with prescribed criteria). Probable classification 2E under the ROTAP * system.

General Description:

Leucochrysum is a small genus of five species all of which were formerly classified in the genus Helipterum. Leucochrysum albicans was previously known as Helipterum albicans.

Leucochrysum albicans
Leucochrysum albicans ssp. albicans in habitat
Photo: Australian Daisy Study Group

Leucochrysum albicans is an erect perennial or annual plant up to 0.3 metres high. Two subspecies are recognised; ssp.albicans and ssp.alpinum.

Leucochrysum albicans ssp.albicans var.albicans   
Leucochrysum albicans ssp.albicans
Photo: Australian Daisy Study Group


L.albicans ssp alpinum is restricted to alpine areas of NSW and Victoria and has white bracts surrounding the yellow central cluster of small flowers. In contrast, ssp. albicans has yellow bracts (as shown, left). Within ssp.albicans a further three botanical varieties are recognised; ssp.albicans var albicans (shown at left), ssp.albicans var.tricolor and ssp.albicans var.buffaloensis.

The narrow, linear leaves of L.albicans are greyish-green and form a grass-like clump of foliage. The flower heads are seen mainly during spring and summer and are 25 to 40 mm in diameter and occur singly at the ends of slender stems.

Subspecies alpinum is rarely, if ever, seen in cultivation as it is not suited to the low elevations of most Australian population centres. Subspecies albicans is, however, a popular species for cultivation in temperate areas where it can be a colourful feature for sites in part or full sun and in well drained soils. It is ideal for filling in bare areas of the garden.

Propagation from seed can be carried out without any pretreatment. Cuttings of hardened, current season's growth usually strike without difficulty.

* EPBC Act = Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
  ROTAP = Rare or Threatened Australian Plants (Briggs and Leigh, 1988)
  For further information refer the Australian Plants at Risk page

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