Leptinella atrata ssp.atrata Black Daisy
Growing in the rocky scree above Porters Pass on Foggy Peak is a neat little alpine plant which in December and January produces its unique and lovely flowers. It grows and blends in well in the many alpine screes from Marlborough to North Otago on the Eastern side of the mountains.
Shooting up from buried rhizomes the finely divided leaves, fern like, hairy leaves grow in tufts between the scree stones. Flower stems rise up between 3 and 7 cm above the tufts and carry tight daisy like heads 1-1.5cm across with many individual near black flowers crammed together. Of special interest are the lovely yellow male anthers rising above the heads in beautiful contrast to the near black flowers.
In cultivation this choice plant grows well in pots or a rock garden provided there is very good drainage. As they are not in an alpine environment the flowering season may be longer.
This plant was originally found by Dr Leonard Cockayne near the summit of Mt Torless on 2 March 1891 on a shingle slip (scree). Known as Cotula atrata (Hook.f) for many years it was the genus was reclassified by Dr David Lloyd and Dr Colin Webb in 1987. It was renamed Leptinella atrata (Hook.f.) D.G. Lloyd et C.J. Webb subsp. atrata. There is another sub species Leptinella atrata subsp. Luteola which has light yellow flowers.
24 species of the genus Leptinella grow in New Zealand but only a few make really good plants in cultivation as most are very low and spreading. Cotula bowling greens have been constructed using some species due to their flat creeping nature and underground rhizomes and ability to grow well in these conditions.