Olearia ilicifolia Hook. f.
Synonyms: Eurybia dentata var. linearifolia Hook. f.
An evergreen bush of spreading habit up to 10 ft or more high; young shoots rather downy. Leaves alternate, hard and leathery, linear-oblong to lanceolate, pointed, rounded or truncate at the base, margins conspicuously wavy and sharply and coarsely toothed, glabrous and green at maturity above, clothed beneath with a close whitish felt, 2 to 4 in. long, 1⁄2 to 1 in. wide; stalk 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long. Flower-heads fragrant, produced during June in branched, rounded corymbs 2 to 4 in. wide from the end of the previous year’s growths on a main-stalk 3 to 6 in. long. Each flower-head is daisy-like, about 1⁄2 in. wide, with ten or more white ray-florets. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 654.
Native of New Zealand on both North and South Islands extending to 4,000 ft altitude. It is closely related to O. macrodonta and is somewhat similar in general appearance. Both have the same musk-like odour. The leaves of O. ilicifolia are more oblong in shape, usually narrower, more wavy at the margin, and the veins stand out from the midrib at right angles (pointing forward in O. macrodonta). The whole plant in this country is smaller and less vigorous.
It is about as hardy as O. macrodonta or even hardier, and has thrived for many years outdoors at Wakehurst Place in Sussex. It received an Award of Merit when exhibited from there by the Director of Kew Gardens on July 11, 1972.
O. × mollis (Kirk) Ckn. (not of gardens) O. ilicifolia var. mollis Kirk – A natural hybrid between O. ilicifolia and O. lacunosa, intermediate between them. Leaves resembling those of O. lacunosa but comparatively shorter and broader, lanceolate, with a thick white or yellowish-white tomentum beneath, rounded at the base, with small scarcely spinous marginal teeth.
O. × mollis was originally described (as a variety of O. ilicifolia) from specimens collected in the South Island of New Zealand. But the following is of garden origin:
O. × mollis ‘Zennorensis’. – A shrub to 6 ft high. Leaves narrow, pointed, sharply toothed, about 4 in. long and 1⁄2 in. wide, dark olive-green above, white-tomentose beneath.
This olearia was distributed by W. Arnold-Forster, who had a notable collection of olearias in his garden at Zennor in Cornwall. It is a beautiful foliage plant, fairly readily propagated by cuttings, and tolerant of maritime exposure. It is not reliably hardy near London, but should survive all but the severest winters in a sheltered position.
O. ilicifolia × O. moschata O. mollis Hort., not (Kirk) Ckn. – A small, compact, rounded shrub; leaves elliptic, 1 to 11⁄2 in. long, silvery grey, with wavy margins; flower-heads in corymbs. This is the olearia cultivated under the name ‘O. mollis’, which properly belongs to the hybrid between O. ilicifolia and O. lacunosa described above. Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 90, fig. 97, as O. mollis.
Although killed or badly damaged during the severe winters of 1961-3, this is reckoned to be one of the hardiest of the olearias.
O. ilicifolia × O. Nummularifolia. – like the above, but leaves shorter and flower-heads solitary. a plant possibly of this parentage is grown at tresco abbey in the isles of scilly.