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.