Olearia fragrantissima


Olearia: Derived from the latinised name (Olearius) of the 17th century German botanist Adam Oelenschlager
fragrantissima: deliciously scented

Common Name(s)

Fragrant tree daisy

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Declining

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - At Risk - Declining
2004 - Sparse


2012 - PD
2009 - CD, PD


Olearia fragrantissima Petrie



Brief Description

Small bushy shrub with many erect reddish brown zig-zagging twigs and sweet smelling small flowers inhabiting coastal areas from Banks Peninsula to Invercargill. Leaves 7.5-30mm long by 5-10mm wide, pointed, hairy when young. Flowers yellow, in small tight clusters. Seeds fuzzy.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs




Endemic, eastern and south-eastern South Island from Banks Peninsula to Southland.


coastal to lower montane (0-300 m a.s.l.) usually in grey scrub, on forest margins or shrublands. Sometimes on the margins of estuarine or saltmarsh vegetation in places which would be subject to saline water in extremes of tide, also found on gravelly soils often on the margins of steep gullies, gorges and in boulder field.


Small semi-deciduous tree up to 8 m tall. Trunk stout, up to 0.6 m d.b.h., clad in greyish-brown bark, this long persistent peeling in long flaking strips. Branches dark reddish brown ascending to spreading; branchlets reddish-brown to red, rigidly wiry, flexuous (often zig-zagging), interlacing, striate. Petioles up to 3 mm long, red-brown. Leaves alternate, 7.5-40 x 5-15 mm, yellow-green to bright green, elliptic-oblong, elliptic-ovate or broad-ovate to obovate, apex obtuse to acute, base cuneate to attentuate; lamina membranous, upper surface glabrate to galbrous when mature, undersides clad in soft, white tomentum, margins flat, entire. Inflorescences axillary (never terminal) in sessile to subsessile glomerules up to 20 mm diameter, each bearing up to 12 bracteate capitula. Capitula 2-4 mm diameter, strongly fragrant (especially at night); involucral bracts bi- to triseriate, oblong under sides copiously white-tomentose; florets 4-8, pale yellow to orange-yellow, ray-florets 1.5-2 x 1.5-2 mm, pale yellow. Cypsela 2 mm long, slightly compressed, grooved, finely and sparsely pilose hairy; pappus 2-3 mm long, pale yellow to buff.

Similar Taxa

Olearia hectorii Hook.f. is somewhat similar but this species has opposite, broadly-elliptic, grey-green leaves that are finely hairy on both surfaces. It usually forms a much larger tree (up to 10 m tall), has distinctive deeply furrowed, long persistent grey to greyish-white bark, and branchlets are never flexuous and interlacing. In lowland areas Olearia hectorii tends to grow on poorly drained alluvial soils.


October - February

Flower Colours



November - April

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from semi-hardwood cuttings that are best taken in autumn and held in a cold frame, and from fresh seed (seed has short-term viability). Seed responds well to 5-10 days cold treatment prior to sowing. An attractive shrub or small tree for the garden. very tolerant of a range of conditions and once established drought tolerant. The deliciously apricot-peach scented flowers are rather notable and unique to this species.


A rather widespread species which can be locally common but is more usually sparsely distributed over large parts of its known range. Although threatened in some areas this species does seem to be recruiting naturally at many locations and populations tend to have good age class structure.

Chromosome No.

2n = 108

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Occasionally sold by specialist native plant nurseries.



Fact Sheet prepared for the NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 14 April 2006. Description adapted from Heads (1998).

References and further reading

Heads, M. 1998. Biodiversity in the New Zealand divaricating tree daisies: Olearia sect. nov. (Compositae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 127(3): 239-285.

This page last updated on 7 May 2014