Celmisia major var. major


Celmisia: Apparently named after Kelmis, one of Idaean Dactyls, a group of skilled mythical beings associated with the Mother Goddess Rhea in Greek mythology. Kelmis, whose name means ‘casting’, was a blacksmith and childhood friend of Zeus, son of Rhea and later king of the gods. In Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, Kelmis is described as offending Zeus who turned him into adamant so he was as hard as a tempered blade
major: greater

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

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 - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Gradual Decline


2012 - PD, Sp
2009 - HI


Celmisia major Cheeseman var. major



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 Herbs - Composites




Endemic. North Island: West Auckland (Muriwai to Cornwallis (formerly Laingholm), Great Barrier Island (near Fitzroy – apparently extinct), Kaikoura Island, Aiguilles Island.


Strictly coastal, on rock headlands, cliff faces, and islets, where it usually grows in low turf on peaty or silty soils with Disphyma, Tetragonia and Samolus. Occasionally found in coastal shrublands.


Tufted herb. Leaves (100-150-200(-400) x (5-)10(-20) mm, narrow-linear to lanceolate, tapering from sheath to an acute apex, sulcate, and plicate in cross-section, leathery, upper surface dark green, pellicle thin, often fracturing into irregular shards, leaving leaves with a somewhat silvery green, mottled appearance. Lower leaf surface densely clad in silvery white appressed hairs, midrib distinct and glabrescent. Leaf sheath pale, membranous, 60 mm long, nerves distinct, red or dark red, margins clad in floccose hairs. Inflorescence scape stout, long persistent, 200 mm or more in length, pellicled to floccose (cottony). Capitula 20-40 mm diam., phyllaries 20 mm, linear-subulate, acuminate, ciliate, glabrous on upper surface. Ray-florets white, numerous, 20 mm long. Disk florets yellow, 9 mm, funnelform, teeth narrow-triangular. Achenes narrow-cylindric, grooved, glabrescent 6-7 mm, pappus hairs 8 mm, white, slender, somewhat barbellate.

Similar Taxa

The taxonomy of northern lowland Celmisia spp. (all allied to the variable C. gracilenta and C. graminifolia complexes) is in need of revision. Accurate distinction of C. major from its allies is difficult, and currently the treatment offered in Allan (161, Flora of New Zealand Vol. 1) will not adequately distinguish this species from other variants within the complex. Within its range, C. major is the only species which occurs within lowland coastal habitats.


(August-) October-November (-February)

Flower Colours



(October-) December (-May)

Propagation Technique

Easy from fresh seed and the division of whole plants. Prefers moist soils, with a sunny aspect, free from weeds Easy from fresh seed and the division of whole plants. Prefers moist soils, with a sunny aspect, free from weeds.


Habitat loss through the encroachment of taller and faster growing weeds, and coastal erosion. Several accessible populations have been damaged by trampling through human traffic to access popular viewing sites on headlands and near shore islets. Some sites have vanished altogether through, it would seem, overcollecting. Apparently always scarce on Great Barrier Island, this daisy now only persists in that island group in a single site on a very remote northerly location.

Chromosome No.

2n = 108

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Can be purchased from Oratia Native Plant Nurseries (info@oratianatives.co.nz).

Notes on taxonomy

Field work and herbarium evidence suggests that C. major is more closely linked to C. adamsii var. rugulosa, which in turn seems to be a later heterotypic synonym for C. graminifolia Hook.f., itself a much misunderstood species. The status of C. major var. brevis, an Mt Egmont endemic is not clear, it is certainly not close to var. major. Further critical study into this matter is urgently needed.   


Fact Sheet prepared by P.J. de Lange (1 February 2009). Description adapted from Allan (1961)

References and further reading

Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I, Government Printer, Wellington.

This page last updated on 7 May 2014