Well, there are loads, from the common yellow-in-the-middle-with-white-petals variety, to a whole host that masquerade as daisies, being so similar. It’s all very confusing, after all, a daisy is a daisy, right? But some have subtle differences. The name ‘daisy’ is commonly applied to a ‘whole bunch’ (get it?) of species within the huge Asteraceae family of plants, a group known for blooms that are flat and disc-shaped, with petals that radiate outwards from a central hub, usually white, though other colour combinations are common. I remember as a youngster, sitting in the grass painstakingly making crowns with these, poking the stem of one with a fingernail to thread through the stem of another. How wonderful to have nothing better to do!
They don’t like the cold! - Did you know that they can be found on every continent except for Antarctica? Portugal has a good selection, and there are plenty that will grow in your garden here.
There are even some weeds with a daisy-like appearance. The Oxeye daisy is native to Europe and Asia but has become a common wild plant all over the place. This grows to a height of about 60cm and the solitary flower heads are about 2.5 to 5 cm in diameter, with white petals. Oxeye daisy is an aggressively invasive species and are a serious weed in 40 countries. It escapes to roadsides and pastures, croplands and open meadows. It is not readily grazed by cattle, and once established, it can spread rapidly by means of roots and seeds. But having said that, it’s great for the critters that do all the pollinating! The cultivated Shasta daisy resembles the oxeye daisy but has larger flower heads that may reach diameter of 10 cm. Very easy to mix them up.
Moroccan Chamomile - Cladanthus mixtus, often referred to as Weedy Dogfennel, is mostly a Mediterranean species of flowering plant from the aster family with fennel-like greenery, and will be found growing wild in abundance here. It often considered a weed but apparently can also distilled for essential oil, which changes in composition depending on where it grows.
Members of the genus Bellis are perennials that have solitary flower heads borne on long stalks; the disks are yellow, the ray petals white or purple. The English daisy (B. perennis) is often used as a bedding plant. Like the oxeye, the English daisy is native to Europe but has become a common wild plant in much of North America. It has numerous, slightly hairy leaves near its base that form a rosette, with leafless flower stalks and hairy leaflike structures called bracts below the flower heads. Some varieties have double flowers; others may have pink or red ray flowers surrounding the bright yellow disk.
Other daisies include the Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii), Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens), Painted lady daisy (Tanacetum coccineum), and Pyrethrum daisy (Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium) and various members of the genera Chrysanthemum and Erigeron.
Even saxifrage, (genus Saxifraga), also called rockfoil, is a genus of the daisy, and about 300 species have been identified. Many of them are valued as plants for a rock-garden, and some are grown for garden borders. As a group they are notable for their small bright flowers and fine-textured foliage. Alpine species are seasonally the earliest to flower in gardens, and would do well in northern areas.
Are sunflowers daisies? Yes, they are, but have differences: Although daisy and sunflower are a part of the same family, they fall under different genera. Daisy is a plant of the genus Bellis and does not produce seeds. Sunflower belongs to the genus Helianthus and produces seeds.
But if you can’t identify one, don’t worry! The internet offers a host of pictures and descriptions to guide you. I downloaded plant identifier on my phone, but sometimes even that mixes them up, they all look so similar!
What makes daisies so special? – it is said the sweet simplicity and beauty of the daisy have made it an international emblem of innocence and purity. Its fresh, crisp appearance has come to symbolize new beginnings, and it’s bright, colours are known to spread happiness like wildfire.
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.