Cassinia quinquefaria

Cough-bush, Dead-finish, Rosemary shrub

Family: Asteraceae

Cassinia quinquefaria is a woody shrub that reaches a height of 2 metres with a similar spread. The stems are sometimes reddish and resinous with hairs.

Cassinia spp. have simple leaves – usually linear. In this species, leaves are up to 4 centimetres long and only 0.2 cm wide, linear and grey-green in colour; strongly aromatic and with upper surface glossy and resinous-sticky and lower surface hairy.

Cassinia spp., being members of the daisy family, have modified flowers called florets which are clustered into a small single structure known as a capitulum (also termed a “head”). Each floret is very small, to about 3 mm long and about 1 mm in diameter. Florets are somewhat tubular with 5 lobes.

In this species, up to 6 florets comprise a capitulum (about 3 mm long x up to 2 mm across). The capitulum is then supported by a whorl (or involucre) of small bracts which are arranged in longitudinal rows. Many capitula are then secondarily arranged into a pyramid-shaped panicle which is up to 10 cm long by 6 cm wide; with an overall white to cream colour. Blooms have a pleasant if somewhat elusive perfume.

The fruits are achenes which is basically a seed with a very thin external coating. In this species, the achenes are to 1 mm long with a pappus (cluster) of bristles to 3 mm long, which aids wind-dispersal.

Cassinia quinquefaria is widespread in New South Wales; growing along most of the coastal areas, the entirety of the tablelands and western slopes and into the western plains. It extends north into Queensland to the west of Cairns.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

Cassinia quinquefaria is a very useful species. In our gardens they shelter and protect more sensitive plants.

Cassinia quinquefaria has regenerated in large numbers at Yallaroo, since stock were removed, and is the most common shrub on our property. Bursaria spinosa (Blackthorn) has also regenerated successfully. Blackthorn has white flowers and blooms at the same time as the Cassinia. In summer, Yallaroo is a sea of cream and white flowers.

We have not planted any specimens in our cold climate garden but plenty of seedlings appear in our gardens as well as the regenerating surrounding areas. The seedlings in the wrong place are removed whilst the others are accepted.

Their dense, interlocking branches provide safe nesting sites for small native birds. Also pieces, of Cough-bush, are placed over new plants. We find the pieces protect the plants from the ravages of kangaroos, wallabies and rabbits.

Unpruned plants tend to become rather straggly and usually have a life span of two to three years. In the wild this is not a problem because there is a constant recruitment of seedlings.

Can be easily grown, if plants can be sourced, but may be short-lived. Likely tolerant of most soils.


The species propagates readily from cuttings as well as seed.

Other information

The common names Cough-bush and Rosemary Shrub refer to the aromatic foliage. Dead-finish refers to the ability, of this species, to survive in the most trying conditions and situations.

This species likely regenerates from seed after fire. Plants can be prolific in some regenerating burnt areas.

Cassinia is a genus of about 45 species – endemic to Australia – occurring in all states/territories except the Northern Territory. NSW currently recognises about 31 species.

Cassinia – named after Count Alexandre Henri Gabriel de Cassini (Henry Cassini, 1781-1832), a French botanist who studied the Asteraceae family; and who was a descendant of the astronomer, Cassini. It was named after him by Robert Brown.

quinquefaria – Latin meaning “five-parts” – which possibly refers to the capitula usually having 5 florets (sometimes 6).

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

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

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

Australian National Herbarium – Cassinia quinquefaria profile page        https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/trainees-2017/cassinia-quinquefaria.html

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