Calotis cuneifolia

Burr Daisy

Family: Asteraceae

Calotis cuneifolia is a member of the Asteraceae (Daisy) family. The genus is usually known as Burr Daisies.

Calotis cuneifolia is a short soft-wooded perennial herb-like plant, to about 50 cm high, which tends to have a radiating (round) or sprawling habit with many stems forming a groundcover, about 50 cm across.

It has a very widespread occurrence in NSW and Australia for that matter. In NSW, it can be found in places such as western Sydney in the endangered ecological woodland communities of the Cumberland Plain; not overly common on the North or South Coasts but with records as far south as around Batemans Bay. It spreads out across the tablelands but more commonly the western slopes and plains where it can be found very commonly dominating, or frequent in, the groundlayer in dry sclerophyll woodland areas as well as mulga scrub and mallee woodlands; as far west as around Menindee. It grows commonly though the tablelands and inland areas of Queensland to around Townsville. It is found in the general north-western quarter of Victoria, generally north and west of Melbourne but also found around Wodonga. It extends in South Australia, mainly in a band between Adelaide and Mildura in NSW. There is a disjunct occurrence around Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Calotis spp. have simple and alternate leaves; sometimes these are basal as wel as cauline (leaves on raised flowering stems). In this species, cauline leaves are wedge-shaped (cuneate, hence the species name) – to spathulate (spoon-shaped), green to blue-green in colour, to about 40 mm long and 20 mm wide, without a petiole and with the bases clasping the stems and with the apices distincly toothed; hairy overall; basal leaves are more oblanceolate to cuneate, to about 50 mm long, usually falling early.

Calotis spp. are in the daisy family and therefore produce flowers in an inflorescence called a capitulum (often referred to as a ‘head’). This is an evolved structure where a large number of modified flowers (florets) are grouped together to look like one flower. The Sunflower (*Helianthus annuus) would be the most grandiose example. The ‘petals’ of the capitula are actually ‘ray florets’ which contain a floret hidden inside the elongated ‘petal’ which is actually an extended limb of the corolla tube called a ligule. The disc in the middle of the capitulum (often yellow or orange in colour) consists of very small ‘disc florets’ which have a small 3-5 lobed corolla tube with stamens and a carpel. A frequent associated part of any capitulum is an involucre (overlapping rows) of bracts which typically subtend and surround the floral parts. In this species, the capitula are about 20 mm diameter, produced solitarily or in 2s or 3s (cymes) on each stalk, to about 50 cm tall, with mauve to purple-blue or white ray florets and yellow disc florets; typically occurring over most of the year.

The fruits of Calotis are achenes – a highly reduced fruit which is almost all-seed. In this species, the achenes are about 1.5 mm long, generally ovoid in shape with a pappus of 2 to 4 awns or paleae which are very spiky / sharp. The awns enable the achenes to attach to a passing animal (including humans). (Walking through a patch of this plant at the right time of year results in hundreds of achenes becoming embedded in any unprotected socks, as well as shoes).

In the garden

Authors’ notes: This Burr Daisy can be easily grown and would be a nice addition to native cottage gardens and rockeries. Their only downside is that the burrs will stick in your socks so we suggest that you plant specimens away from paths and borders.

It is a decorative plant that flowers profusely and retains its dense shape with minimum tip pruning.

This species is native to our property, Yallaroo (near Armidale, NSW), but the best plants we have ever observed were growing along fire trails in the Pilliga Scrub, central NSW (see main photo). These were dense plants covered with lilac flowers.

It is not overly fussy of soil type and will generally grow well in full sun to part shade. Similarly to Brachyscome spp., plants probably last a few years and can be propagated easily from seed.


The species will propagate from seed and rapidly from cuttings.

Other information

This species was the first species named for this genus by Robert Brown.

It is worth noting, that there is C. cuneifolia and C. cuneata occurring in NSW, which causes potential for confusion and mis-referencing.

This species likely regenerates from seed, in large quantities, post fire.

Calotis is a genus of about 26 species, occurring in Asia as well as Australia. Australia has 24 endemic species, found in all mainland states. NSW currently has 21 species.

Calotis – Greek – Kalos (καλός) meaning “beautiful” and otus (ὦτος) meaning “horns or horned” – referring to the pappus of awns or barbs on the achenes.

cuneifolia – Latin – referring to “cuneate-foliage” – a condition where the leaves are wedge-shaped – wider at the apices and often squared-off.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Calotis cuneifolia profile page          https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Calotis~cuneifolia

Woolshed Thurgoona Landcare Group – Calotis cuneifolia profile page https://wtlandcare.org/details/calotis-cuneifolia

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke