A variable perennial herb, very soft-wooded, growing up to about 60 cm tall by 50 cm wide.
It has a very widespread natural distribution, found all over NSW, from the coast to the far western plains, extending out to all neighbouring states. It virtually occurs over all of Victoria, South Australia as well as Tasmania; most of Queensland with the exception of the far north and north-west; mainly the south of the Northern Territory and it is scattered over most of Western Australia, Unsurprisingly, there are a wide range of forms.
It is often found on sandy soils but can be found on heavier soils. It is found in dry sclerophyll woodlands, shrublands and heathlands as well as mulga scrub and malle heathlands. It can also form extensive components of paddocks or cleared areas which have substantial native grass components, forming part of native “meadows” in some cases.
Chrysocephalum spp. have simple and usually alternate leaves, some leaves basal and others cauline (on flowering stems). In this species, leaves are highly variable, to 60 mm long by 25 mm wide, oblanceolate-spathulate to elliptic to linear-lanceolate, slightly to densely hairy; mid green to dark green to blue-green or grey-blue in colour (covered in dense hairs), with pointed to rounded apices.
Chrysocephalum 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.
In this genus, ray florets are bascially absent – only disc florets form the head (which can be the case in many daisy-genera) which are surrounded by an involucre (overlapping rows) of papery bracts. In this species, heads are about 15 mm across with each disc floret tubular and very short (less than 5 mm long); with florets and bracts golden-yellow to golden-brown. The heads are in terminal clusters of a few to 20 or so, umbel-like or raceme-like in structure; produced mainly in spring and summer but also at other times of the year.
The fruit of Chrysocephalum is an achene; a fruit that is almost all-seed. In this species, they are about 2 mm long, oblong-ovoid and 4-angled.
This species is a very common native garden favourite.
It comes in a range of forms and even at small and large nurseries, different forms can often be seen for sale. Some of these differ widely in their success in gardens with some being more fussy of location and soil type. Some have green leaves whilst others are blue to almost white (covered in dense hairs).
Chrysocephalum apiculatum is a common perennial in the bushland on our property, Yallaroo (near Armidale, NSW). Even here there are significant variations within our population. Some plants have green leaves while others have grey-green foliage. There are also growth habit variations. Most have upright growth habit while a small number have an interesting suckering method of reproduction.
It is commonly used in open sunny and exposed garden beds, often along a border.
This hardy perennial looks best grown in clumps or mass displays where the bright flower heads will light up the garden.
It is best grown in full sun on soils that are well-drained. It does not tolerate boggy soils of overly shady locations too well. Also – plants should not be mulched too heavily.
A pruning tip is to lightly run a whipper-snipper over it to remove spent heads.
Propagation may be undertaken at any time of the year and cuttings produce roots rapidly.
Chrysocephalum apiculatum was formerly known as Helichrysum apiculatum.
There are a few cultivars listed – one is ‘Desert Flame’ (see resources below).
This species likely regenerates from seed after fire.
Chrysocephalum is a genus of about 8 species – endemic to Australia, occurring in all states. NSW currently has 5 species.
Chrysocephalum – Greek, chrysos (χρῡσός) meaning “gold” and –cephali (κεφάλι) – meaning “head” – capturing the golden flower-heads of this species.
apiculatum – Latin meaning “apiculate” – ending abruptly in a short point, referring to the leaves.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Chrysocephalum apiculatum profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Chrysocephalum~apiculatum
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.
Gardening with Angus – Chrysocephalum apiculatum ‘Desert Flame’ https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/chrysocephalum-apiculatum-desert-flame-yellow-buttons/