The oxeye daisy (leucanthemum vulgare) is a familiar sight along British motorway verges and on grassy roundabouts. It has many other names, including the dog daisy, field daisy and moon daisy.
As a member of the daisy family it has the familiar appearance of a common garden daisy but is much, much larger, growing to up to nearly a meter high (91cm) over the course of two years. The head can be up to 5cm in diameter and has a circular, bright yellow centre surrounded by individual ‘petals’ that are so beloved in playgrounds for the ‘loves me, loves me not’ game. The stem is slender and singular, the leaves dark green and growing from either side.
The flowering head is interesting in that the petals are not really petals, but ray florets and are therefore sterile. It is the centre of the head, the yellow disc floret, that facilitates pollination and produces seeds.
Perfect for Pollinators
This white wild flower is one of 400 featured on two lists known collectively as the RHS perfect for pollinators list – one features garden plants and the other features wildflowers.
Attracting pollinators is, of course, vital at a time when the natural habitats of many of our native species of wildflower are being destroyed so that the land can be used for other things. Bees, butterflies, flies and other pollinating insects play a vital role in continued flora and fauna life cycles and should therefore be encouraged and helped to thrive wherever possible.
Using Oxeye daisies as a garden plant
Many people are dedicating parts of their gardens to growing wildflowers, creating miniature meadows in their own back yard. These can be achieved by planting seeds, though a more reliable (and quick) method is to buy pre-planted meadowmat rolls, which can be installed like turf in a garden.
The oxeye daisy is a natural choice for a meadow garden and attracts various pollinating insects, predominantly beetles (e.g. snout weevils, tumbling flower beetles, longhorn beetles), hoverflies and caterpillars. They flower from May to September.
Other uses for the Oxeye daisy
It is also is perhaps one of the most useful wildflowers in terms of its usage by us humans, too. Historically it was once used as a cure for insanity, smallpox, skin disorders and jaundice. The Greeks used it to cure menstrual cramps, while Native Americans used it to cure fevers. In Britain it has been used to relieve respiratory problems such as whooping cough.
The flowers and leaves of the oxeye daisy are edible, and the buds of flowers can be marinated and used to flavour food. Other uses include as an insecticide (to get rid of head lice) and eyewash.