Bellis perennis (daisy)
The humble yet cheerfully attractive daisy is familiar to most people as a weed of lawns and as a feature of children's games.
Bellis perennis (daisy)
Widespread and common.
About this species
The daisy is a perennial plant, and flowers for much of the year. The upturned flower heads look like single flowers, actually consist of a number of small, tightly packed individual flowers or 'florets'; this arrangement is a type of inflorescence known as a 'capitulum' . The capitula open at dawn, are visited by many small insects, and are also used by children to make daisy chains. The plant was described by Chaucer as the 'day’s eye', and 'the emperice and flour of floures alle'.
Geography and distribution
The daisy is common throughout Britain. It also occurs throughout the rest of Europe and west Asia.
The small, hairy, spoon-shaped leaves, which are green throughout the year, make up neat, flat rosettes. The upturned flower heads look like single flowers, but actually consist of a number of small, tightly packed individual flowers or 'florets'; this arrangement is a type of inflorescence known as a 'capitulum'. The flower heads have bright golden-yellow central discs, composed of 'disc florets', which are surrounded by petal-like white 'ray-florets' that often have deep pink or reddish flushes on the underside.
Although often considered to be a weed of lawns, Bellis perennis is a valuable addition to grassland areas managed for wildflowers and wildlife. There are many compact cultivars which are used for ornamental bedding displays.
The medicinal properties of the daisy were recorded as far back as Gerard’s Herbal in the 16th century. The flowers and leaves can be used fresh in decoctions, ointments and poultices for treating wounds and also boils. A mild decoction of the flowers may ease complaints of the respiratory tract, including coughs. An ointment made from the leaves can be applied externally to wounds and bruises.
Although somewhat acidic to taste, the leaves are edible. These can be used as a pot herb or added to salads.
The daisy is usually considered a weed of lawns but in an informal setting it can create a pretty addition to short grass areas. Most cultivation advice for this species concentrates on how to remove it from a lawn - by spraying with herbicide or digging up plants, with their roots, and removing them. The daisy will usually appear in a lawn without any help and mowing the grass every two or three weeks will keep it short enough for the daisy to survive and flower. It survives the cut of the lawn mower by having compact, ground-hugging rosettes of leaves.
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Kew Science Editor: Nicholas Hind
Kew contributors: Sustainable Uses Group
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell
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