A decade ago we moved up from the city to live in the bush. Looking back we were naïve and idealistic with a vision of removing all the weeds and exotic plants from the property. Every year we would target one or two species with mixed success. All the Cotoneasters are gone as is the Broom, English Ivy and French Lavender. The thistles and blackberry are on their last legs. The journey however has been fraught with blunders.
Very early on we targeted a plant thinking it to be a weed and spent hours pulling it out. Unfortunately it was native – various species of Senecio or Fireweed. Fortunately our clumsy attempts to eradicate the plants failed dismally and they made a brilliant recovery. There are however many such identification traps for the unwary. With similar flowers, one confusion is between the Yam Daisy or Native Dandelion (Microseris lanceolata) and the Dandelion (Taraxacum sp.), a weed native to Europe and Asia.
Since the fires in 2009, Yam Daisies have been appearing throughout the bush. This species has roots that Indigenous people baked and ate. Unusually, the buds droop on the end of long stalks, which become erect when in flower to attract the pollinating insects. After pollination the stalks again droop only to become erect again when seed heads ripen, presumably to catch the best breeze for seed dispersal.
If you can’t wait the plant’s entire life-cycle to check if your flower is a Yam Daisy and not a Dandelion, look at the leaves. The Yam Daisy has narrower toothed leaves that stand
up off the ground whereas the dandelion has broader leaves that form a rosette on the ground. In the end both plants produce showy yellow flowers but for the purists among us that isn’t enough.