Friday, November 7, 2008

Plover Daisy

Leiocarpa brevicompta (Ixiolaena brevicompta)
I have no idea why this plant is called “plover daisy”. Perhaps it’s because spurwing plover (also called masked lapwings) nest amongst the plants. I’m sure we all know this common local bird, which nests on the ground, and defends it vigorously by dive-bombing us and shouting “ack-ack-ack... “
It’s a pleasing mental image, the yellow masks of the plover among the soft, woolly blue-green leaves and the yellow flowers of its namesake daisy.
This is a rather variable plant, with Australia’s best version, having the most generously woolly foliage and the largest buttons, occurring naturally on blacksoil in a strip between Drayton and Cambooya. It occurs in other parts of our area, but so those wishing to grow it might prefer to source their plants from the right spot.
Like the prophet, it is little valued in its own country, and we rarely see this plant in gardens despite its obvious desirability. It is particularly good with a cottage-style garden and has that style’s traditional easy-care qualities, being a frost and drought-hardy biennial, very easily grown from seed. The plants are easy to find at present as it is now showily in flower around the district. Once established it self-seeds fairly easily (particularly if the garden gets a little cultivation and water), the seedlings appearing in spring. It would be very suitable for sale in punnets, as a bedding annual
Self-sown plants have growth spurts in spring and autumn and look their best if cut back twice a year to keeps the plants neatly shaped, and encourage regrowth of the woolly blue-green foliage.
A warning to graziers is appropriate, however. Though this is a useful fodder plant before it flowers, its seeds can poison sheep. The Queensland Dept. Of Primary Industries has noted that there have been deaths from this cause in Western Queensland when the plant is eaten in problem quantities, (which they define as 50% or more of the total diet, for 1-2 weeks). They suggest these management strategies:
I. Stock pastures heavily while the plant is still green, to reduce seed-set.
2. After seeds appear, let each mob of sheep graze on the pasture for a week only, once the seedheads mature, then replacing them with a different mob. Apparently the sheep actively seek out the seedheads to eat, and DPI regards this as a safe way of reducing seed numbers.
Based on this, I consider that this is not a plant we need to avoid for fear of causing a poisoning disaster.
Where we see it naturally occurring in pastures here, the proportion is always relatively small and does not seem to become dominant even with overstocking - though perhaps others may report a different experience? The seeds are not wind dispersed, and self-seeding in my garden has only ever occurred very close to the parent plants.
Too many good native plants are avoided, with the potential to slide quietly into extinction, because they have been discovered to be toxic to stock. The word gets around that they are poisonous, and people tell each other not to grow them without first establishing to what degree they are really likely to be a problem. That stock feeds mainly on Australian plants means that they have (rightly) been the subject of much research and some publicity. Meanwhile, many very commonly grown introduced plants, some of them really dangerous to children, appear in our gardens without comment.


Mick said...

Trish, Are you interested in a seed swap, some of these plover daisey seeds for something I have. Maybe indigofera australe or some native sennas, I have four species with seed on at the moment.

Patricia Gardner said...

Yes, Mick.
Could you send me an email with your address? - and let me know which Sennas you have.

Ros Vandenberg said...

This grows naturally on my block in Cambooya. I transplanted some to my garden site (not knowing what is really was until now) & it has blossomed into a lovely plant, a real gem. I see others pop up around the yard so will do the same to save them from the mower!
I assume you just grab the seed head when it looks like the seeds are about to fly away and can sprinkle them across a seed tray to reproduce more Trish?

Ros Vandenberg said...

(If you ever need more seeds for the nursery I can help too.)

Patricia Gardner said...

Hi Ros.
Yes, to grow the seed, you collect it when the seedhead is dry and crumbles easily. The seeds themselves are very small, but there is no need to separate them out from the trash. Just plant the los, cover thinly with something suitable (seed raising mix is perfect, but a soil-sand mixture will do, or even very finely crumbled soil. Keep them damp, and wait for results.
Like all daisy seed, they aren't likely to keep all that well. I'd guess about six months, if kept dry and away from insects (paper bag, in the fridge is good). Otherwise, just plant them when freshly collected.
Thanks for the offer of some for the Crows nest Community Nursery, but they keep stock plants there so they always have seed, as the plants are popular with customers.

Ros V said...

Hi Trish, probably hard for you to say considering the research was based on stock, but do you think putting chooks in a paddock with a few specimen of this plant would be ok or should be fence the plants off?

Patricia Gardner said...

Hi Ros.
Birds have a completely different digestive system from mammals. One of the warnings given to those who experiment with "Bush tucker" is to DEFINITELY NOT assume that because birds can eat a certain plant it is safe for humans.
I would be almost certain you could give your chooks full access to these plants in complete safety.The question would be whether the plants would survive the chooks.