Olearia elliptica

Sticky Daisy Bush

Family: Asteraceae

Olearia elliptica grows to 2 metres tall with a spread of around 3 meters. It can be multi-stemmed. Stems and leaves are sticky.

It is a common species, mostly in the more inland areas of NSW; but is found close to the coast from Jervis Bay, extending north through the central coast and tablelands, into the central and norther-western slopes, north coast and tablelands. The range extends into Queensland, where it grows mainly in south-eastern Queensland as far as around Kingaroy and Noosa Heads. A subspecies, subsp. praetermissa, occus only on Lord Howe Island.

It is typically found in wet and dry sclerophyll woodland and forest on a range of soils – usually fertile (eg: basalt or clay) but sometimes sandy.

Olearia spp. have simple and either alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, they are quite recogniseable: alternate to 12 cm long (often much shorter) and 4 cm wide, dark green above and pale green below, and very sticky with a glossy appearance (appearing varnished); elliptic to shortly lanceolate.

Olearia are in the daisy family (the world’s largest family of species) which means their flowers are arranged in a capitulum or ‘daisy head’. Daisies are somewhat unique in that they have evolved inflorescences that appear to look like one flower. The Sunflower (*Helianthus annuus) could be considered the most grandiose example. The capitulum consists of:

  • ‘ray florets’ which are the petal-like structures which radiate around the centre of the capitulum;  these are a modified flower consisting of an elongated perianth tube which hides sexual structures at the base;
  • and ‘disc florets’ – the very small modified flowers in the central disc which have a much reduced perianth and are somewhat tubular with sexual structures.

In some daisies, a range of variations are thrown up such as an absence of ray florets; purely male or female disc florets; and some discs having an involucre of bracts rather than ray florets. A sunflower would have hundreds of disc florets in the centre, surrounded by its larger petal-like yellow ray florets.

In Olearia spp., the flowers are arranged in typical terminal capitula (or ‘heads’) with ray and disc florets. In this species, heads are secondarily arranged into corymbs (a conflorescence), about 5 cm long by 10 cm wide. Each capitulum has up to 25 white ray florets, surrounding a disc a disc of 5 to 30 yellow disc florets; each about 25 mm in diametre. These appear mainly in summer to autumn and can be profuse.

The fruit of Olearia (and many daisies) is an achene – a small fruit with one seed surrounded by a very thin outer wall and with a ring (pappus) of bristles attached which aids wind dispersal.

In the garden

This species can be cultivated but is likely not as popular as it could be. It grows and regenerates very readily in its natural habitat and is likely easy to grow.

Olearia elliptica would be an interesting addition to a native shrubbery. Both foliage and flowers are attractive features.

Prune lightly after flowering to prevent plants becoming dishevelled and to keep them lush and compact.

The glossy green leaves and profuse white and yellow daisy flowers would enhance any garden. In the wild, they are often found in shady areas, so a partially shaded spot may be best.

Being a daisy, they may be short-lived, but seed and cuttings could easily be propagated.

It would likely attract a wider range of insects with its sticky stems and leaves, as well as daisy flowers. It is reported to be fast-growing.


Propagate from cuttings that strike rapidly. This is a characteristic shared by the majority of Olearias.

Other information

The type specimen was collected in the Illawarra district south of Sydney in the early 1800s. At this time the species was known as Aster ellipticus.

Two subspecies are currently recognised in NSW; subsp. elliptica and subsp. praetermissa with the latter only found on Lord Howe Island.

Olearia is a diverse genus of about 180 species, found in Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea. Australia has about 130 species that are endemic. Many of them are easily cultivated. They are found in a range of habitats with a wide range of leaf appearances; yet the flowers are always similar. The genus includes some threatened species. NSW currently has about 56 species.

Most Olearia spp. would regenerate from seed after fire.

Olearia – named for Adam Olearius (1599-1671), a German geographer and traveller who published books on his travels to the Middle East and Russia for the purposes of trade. He was also a mathematician and craftsman and collected some botanical specimens whilst travelling.

elliptica – Latin – referring to the elliptic leaf shape of the species.

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

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

Plants of South East New South Wales – Olearia elliptica profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/olearia_elliptica_subsp._elliptica.htm

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.