Overview of the Australian Species of the Olearia Genus

Of the roughly 180 species of evergreen shrubs and small trees which make up the Olearia genus, about 130 are native to Australia with the rest occurring in New Zealand, New Guinea and Lord Howe Island. The leaves are sometimes aromatic and are usually leathery with tiny, soft hairs on the undersides. Flower colour ranges from white to pink, blue and purple. The daisy-type flower heads may be so prolific that they smother the foliage, creating a rounded mass of colour.

Olearia argophyalla, has the common names of musk daisy bush, musk tree, muskwood, and silver shrub. It is endemic to south-eastern Australia and especially to Tasmania where it is found in mountain gullies. It is the largest of the species with trunks to 0.9 metres in diameter. The leaves may grow to 15cm in length and are silvery on the underneath surfaces. The small white daisies appear in early spring and summer and have a mild fragrance.

Olearia stellulata (also O.lirata) is also known as the snow daisy bush and grows to 3 metres with a similar spread. The leaves are elliptic in shape with a point at the ends. They may be toothed and have a hairy coating on the undersurfaces and a slight fragrance when crushed. Terminal clusters of daisy type flowers are borne in summer. The flowers are generally white but are occasionally pink or mauve.

 The bush wallaby weed or sticky daisy bush (Olearia viscidula) is a sparsely branched shrub. It is endemic to the drier ranges of New South Wales and Victoria. The leaves are narrow and elliptical, very sticky and dark green on the upper surfaces and whitish underneath. The bush is covered with creamy white daisy-like flowers from late spring through to early summer. It is a tough adaptable plant which will stay bushy if given an occasional trim.

Olearia phlogopappa has the common name of dusty daisy-bush and is native to the highlands of south-eastern Australia, occurring in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. It has greyish-green, hairy leaves which are oblong in shape and have wavy edges. It flowers very profusely producing white, pink, blue or purple daisy flowers mainly from July to November. It is widely grown in all its many different forms. There are a number of colourful cultivars, all of which are quite stunning. This species is fairly quick growing and regular light pruning is recommended. This species will grow in seaside regions if it has some protection and it is frost-resistant.

Olearias generally like moderately fertile well-drained soil in full sun or part-shade.. They can be pruned after flowering to promote a bushy, compact form. Some make good hedging or shelter plants and will tolerate strong winds. They can be a good choice for coastal positions.