Oxeye Daisy

Leucanthemun vulgare

Species distinguishing characteristics: 

  • Showy, daisy-like flowers that are solitary at ends of branches
  • Flowers have an unpleasant odor
  • Short, creeping roots
  • Leaves with wavy to lobed margins
  • Stalked basal leaves and clasping bases on stem leaves
  • Often grows in dense clumps

Family Characteristics: 

  • Multiple layers of bracts beneath the flowers
  • Flower heads composed of many smaller (often tiny) flowers, each of which produces an individual seed
  • Flowers may contain disk florets, such as those in the yellow center of a daisy, and/or petal-like ray florets
  • Undivided leaves
  • Family members include the food plants lettuce, artichoke, and endive

Growth habitat: 

Erect, short-lived, perennial herb, up to 1 m tall.  Often grows in dense clumps due to the creeping root system.  Formerly known as Chrysanthemum leucanthemum.

Leaves and stems: 

Smooth to sparsely haired stems emerge from a basal rosette.  Many stems can arise from each root crown.  Each stem is unbranched to once-branched.  Basal rosette leaves are 2–5 inches long including the stalk and are spoon-shaped with wavy, scalloped, or toothed margins.  Stem leaves arrange in an alternate pattern and progressively reduce in size ascending along the stem.  Lower stem and basal leaves are widest at the tip of the stem and attach by long, narrow stalks.  Upper stem leaves lack stalks (leaves attach by elongated clasping bases that may appear stalk-like) and are narrower with more irregular wavy to toothed margins.

Flowers: 

A single daisy-like flower head, 2–6 cm across, develops on the end of each branch.  Compact clusters of disk flowers compose the yellow center, 1–2 mm wide.  The receptacle of disk flowers is convex to slightly conical.  The 20–30 notched, white “petals” are ray flowers, 1–2 cm long.  Flowers have an unpleasant odor that is reminiscent of stale perspiration.  Floral bracts beneath the flower heads are green with brown margins and appear in several overlapping rows.

Roots: 

Short, fibrous, creeping roots in dense clumps.

Seeds: 

Ovate, dark brown to black seeds, 1–2 mm long, have 10 prominent, pale or straw-colored ribs on the seed surface.  Seeds lack a pappus, or plume, and typically fall close to the parent plant.  Both the yellow disk flowers and the white ray flowers are capable of producing seeds.  Each plant can produce 500 or more seeds; plants in moist areas are capable of more prolific seed production.  Seeds are viable for 20 years or more.

Habitat preferences: 

Found in disturbed areas,fields, meadows, roadsides, and forest openings.  Tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions including moist to moderately dry sites and soils that are acidic or low in nutrients.   

Interesting facts: 

Introduced from Eurasia as an ornamental and a contaminant in seed.  Oxeye daisy may be included in popular seed mixes; a practice prohibited by law in Montana.  Young spring leaves are edible raw or cooked but are rather pungent.  Grazing animals typically avoid foraging oxeye daisy. 

Medicinally, the whole plant has treated whooping cough, asthma, conjunctivitis, bruises, and wounds.  An acrid juice permeates from the oxeye daisies and is said to repel insects.  The unpleasant odor of the flowers is similar to that of many other species pollinated by flies. 

Biological Classification: