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Doronicum orientale (leopard's bane)

Doronicum orientale is an early-flowering, lemon-yellow daisy, with a single flowerhead on an upright stem, and soft, rounded leaves.

Yellow flowers of Doronicum orientale

Doronicum orientale (Photo: Martyn Rix)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Doronicum orientale Hoffm.

Common name: 

leopard's bane

Conservation status: 

Widespread and not considered to be threatened.

Habitat: 

Woodland and shady, rocky places.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental.

Known hazards: 

Doronicum species are poisonous to cattle and pigs.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Asteranae
Order: 
Asterales
Family: 
Compositae/Asteraceae
Genus: Doronicum

About this species

Doronicum orientale is one of the earliest-flowering of the yellow daisies, the flowerheads usually opening in April and May. It grows from a thickened rhizome (underground stem). The softly-hairy leaves appear in February, and the plant becomes dormant by late summer. The flower stems are upright, unbranched, and usually bear a single leaf. The narrow ray florets are lemon-yellow.

Synonym: 

Doronicum caucasicum

Genus: 
Doronicum

Discover more

Geography and distribution

Native to south-eastern Europe, from Italy, Sicily and the Balkans to the Caucasus and much of Turkey, extending into northern Syria.

Description

A perennial herb up to 140 cm tall. The rhizome is tuberous, branching and shortly creeping to form wide patches. The leaves are mostly basal, broadly ovate, cordate (heart-shaped) at the base, shortly hairy, 6–10 cm long and 5–8 cm wide. The flowering stem is sticky-hairy, up to 60 cm long, with 1 or 2 leaves with amplexicaul (stem-embracing) leaf bases. The flowerhead (capitulum) is solitary, up to 8 cm across, with numerous, narrow ray florets. The fruits have a short pappus.

Uses

Doronicum orientale is cultivated as an ornamental. It might have been used in herbal medicine in the past, although it could have been confused with Arnica montana (arnica) or Aconitum lycoctonum (wolfsbane), which have both also been known by the common name ‘leopard’s bane’.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Description of seeds: Average 1,000 seed weight = 1.2 g
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One
Composition values: Average oil content = 38.4%. Average protein content = 20.6%

Hand-coloured engraving of Doronicum caucasicum by W. J. Hooker, from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (1832).

Cultivation

Doronicum orientale is easily grown in semi-shade in woodland, or under trees, but there are also cultivars which thrive in full sun and are suitable for herbaceous borders. It requires light in early summer and tolerates well-drained, stony ground. Propagation is by division in the autumn. A number of cultivars with subtly different ray floret colours are available.

Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine

This hand-coloured engraving of Doronicum orientale (as D. caucasicum) by Sir William J. Hooker (1785-1865) was published in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1832. Hooker was Professor of Botany at the University of Glasgow, and took over the editorship of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1827, initially drawing many of the plates himself. When he was appointed as the first Director of Kew in 1841, he brought with him from Glasgow a young artist, Walter H. Fitch, who remained at Kew until his death in 1892, and who was one of the most prolific and accomplished botanical artists of the nineteenth century.

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.

Now well over 200 years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.

Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Find out more about Curtis's Botanical Magazine

This species at Kew

Doronicum orientale is not currently grown at Kew, but other species of Doronicum can be seen growing in the Rock Garden and Woodland Garden (around the Temple of Aeolus).

Alcohol-preserved and pressed and dried specimens of Doronicum species are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers, by appointment. The details of some of these specimens can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

References and credits

Edmondson J. (1975). Doronicum. In: Flora of Turkey, Volume 5, ed. P.H. Davis, pp. 137-145.

Fernández, I.A. (2003). Systematics of Eurasian and North African Doronicum (Asteraceae: Senecioneae). Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 90: 319-389.

Hooker, W.J. (1832). Doronicum caucasicum Bieb. Curtis’s Bot. Mag. 59: tab. 3143.

Phillips, R. & Rix, M. (1991). Perennials, Volume 1. Pan Books, London.

The Plant List (2010). Doronicum orientale. Available online (accessed 28 March 2011).

Kew Science Editor: Martyn Rix
Kew contributors: Steve Davis (Sustainable Uses Group), Nicholas Hind
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell

While every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, the notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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