Apart from grasses, the mountain daisies in their many forms are the commonest plants of New Zealand mountain vegetation. The genus has almost 60 species confined to New Zealand and a few others in Australia and Tasmania. Some of them hybridise freely which adds to the difficulty of identification. The name arises from the daisy-like appearance of the flowers, born singly on long stems, and found in mountain areas. The flowers are very much larger and more handsome than those of the common daisy, often being 2–3 in. across. Leaves are commonly lanceolate and either form rosettes arising from rootstocks at ground level or are disposed along rhizomes or stems on the ground surface. Flowers are mostly white and are showy when plants are in full bloom over a mountain meadow.
The most handsome species is probably C. coriacea which has rosettes of large, stiff, broad, silvery leaves up to 20 in. long. The flowers can be as large as 4 in. across on stems 2 to 3 ft long. This species is found throughout the mountains of the South Island and has probably increased under the influence of fire and grazing. C. traversii has dark, brownish-green leaves up to 16 in. long and flowers about 2 in. in diameter. It occurs in the mountains at either end of the South Island. C. spectabilis is found both in the North and in the South Islands. It is the commonest species on the mountains of the North Island and has many forms, some of which are named varieties. C. sessiliflora forms dense, silvery cushions of small rosettes of leaves. Flowers are less than an inch across and sit close to the cushions. It occurs throughout the mountains of the South Island. C. argentea is another silvery, cushion-like plant from the mountains of the southern end of the South Islands. Throughout the North and South Island lowland and the lower montane grassland and related habitats, C. gracilenta is found. This is a slender, tufted plant with narrow, silvery leaves up to 1 ft long and flowers one half to an inch across.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.