Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, February 2014
 Celmisia semicordata ssp aurigans  - by Susan Tindall
Celmisia semicordata subspecies aurigans is a mountain plant from New Zealandís South Island, making large clumps of golden leaves that stand out on open subalpine scrub and snow tussock- herbfield, especially on rocky sites, in the high rainfall regions of eastern and south-central Otago.
We see these plants and fall in love with them,  but where can we obtain the plants?  There are some nurseries that grow these plants (not many).  If you are not able to obtain them from a nursery, the next step is to acquire seed and have a go yourself, (this is the route I always go for).  Next step, buy seed from commercial seed companies, or look in the seed exchange lists; you usually find seed listed and some is wild collected seed.
I find Celmisia seed germinates soon after sowing - sow the seed in January, and keep the seed as cool as possible - heat causes the seed to damp off. I keep them growing in the seed compost until the early summer, when I transfer them into individual pots, (do not over pot); keep potting on as and when the roots come out of the bottom of the pot.  Free draining compost, but do not let them dry out.   Plant out in the garden when you have a good sized plant in the spring.

The plant in the picture I purchased as fresh seed from a seed collector (who no longer collects NZ seed, I am sorry to say) in 2011.

Celmisia is named after Kelmis (In Greek mythology Kelmis was a childhood friend of Zeus, but following a disagreement Zeus turned him to adamant, a mythical substance which is the hardest in the world, perhaps a reference to the sharp blades of Celmisia).