Oxeye Daisy is an introduced and naturalized invasive perennial forb growing on erect stems which, if branched, do so only in the upper part of the stems, that are from 8 to 24 inches high. Stems are usually without hair but many be angled or grooved. The plant contains an acrid juice which insects do not like and browsing animals avoid either in the field or in fodder. This is why some have called the plant the bane of the hay fields.
Leaves are of two types, basal and stem. Basal leaves are up to 5 inches long, on long stalks, an elongated oval or spatula shape with either pinnate lobes or just coarse irregular teeth. The stem leaves are usually without stalks, alternate and spaced on the stem, more lanceolate in shape with coarse teeth. The upper leaves are smaller and with fewer teeth but with pinnatifid bases. Surfaces are smooth.
The floral array is single flower atop the main stem or side branches.
The flower is 1 to 2 inches wide and has two types of florets: An outer ring of 13 to 34+ white ray florets which are pistillate only (female) and fertile, but usually produce no seed. They surround a central flattened disc of 120 to 200+ bisexual fertile disc florets that have yellow tube shaped corollas. The corolla tube has 5 pointed lobes at the tip. There are five stamens with yellow anthers that surround the single style of each floret. The disc florets open first from the outer edge and then proceed inward. Only one flower in the array blooms at any one time but other buds may be developing on side branches. Under each flower head is a ring of several series of overlapping green sheathing phyllaries (bracts) which support the head and deter insects from getting to the nectar. These are lanceolate in shape with some brown on the margins near the tips.
Seed: Fertile flowers produce a dry oblong seed (a cypsela) that has about 10 ribs on the sides but no fluffy pappus, instead, relying on the wind to shake the stalk to disperse seed.
Invasive: See notes below.
Habitat: Oxeye Daisy blooms all summer, but more prolifically in June. A common plant of meadows and fields and of many home gardens whether planted there purposely or not. It spreads not only by seed, but by creeping rhizomes and if you have ever had it in your lawn you know that by cutting it, it keeps coming back. It needs at least partial sun and moderate moisture.
Names: The genus name Leucanthemum is from the Greek leukos, meaning "white," and anthemon, meaning "flower," and resembling the Ox's eye. The species name, vulgare, means "common". This plant in previous times was called “Marguerite”, the old French name for the flower. “Marguerite,” is from the petal pulling game "He loves me, he loves me not" ('effeuiller la Marguerite' in the French). The author name for the plant classification, ‘Lam.’, is for Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) French naturalist who published on botany and zoology and is known for his theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. In previous time the plant was classified as Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)
Comparisons: It is unlikely you will mistake this plant for another but there is in Minnesota another immigrant - The Giant Daisy, Leucanthemella serotina, which is a larger plant, more leaves, similar number of ray florets but many fewer disc florets. That species is rarely found and the DNR does not even provide any county data for it.
Above: Stems of Oxeye branch very sparingly near the top. Each branch has only one flower. Drawing courtesy of Kurt Stüber's Online Library.
Below: 1st photo - The flattened central disc of numerous yellow disc florets and one flower on the top of the stem is characteristic. 2nd photo - The upper stem leaves are without stalks, a few teeth and a pinnatifid base.
Below: 1st photo - The outer white ray florets are fertile (styles visible in photo) as are the inner disc florets which are bisexual. 2nd photo - The phyllaries of the flower head are in several overlapping series with brown margins
Below: 1st photo - The sturdy stem is usually grooved and slightly angled. 2nd photo - A basal leaf with its long stalk and coarsely toothed leaf. 3rd photo - The dry oblong cypsela that has about 10 ribs on the sides but no fluffy pappus.
Notes: Eloise Butler first noted Oxeye Daisy on Aug. 8, 1915 when she noted in her log "Discovered White Ox-eye Daisy!! on path along east meadow above Ostrich Ferns." This plant must have been a favorite of Eloise Butler as her records show that she planted seeds of this species on July 15, 1919 and that she obtained plants of this species on June 13, 1923 from "Mr. Babcock's yard." (She lodged with the Babcocks during the Garden season.) She dug 3 clumps from the highway south of Barnum MN in Sept. 1919. She also obtained plants on August 31, 1925 from a "Ms. Johnson's Garden" in Hastings, MN and again on June 16, 1927.
Naturalized from European descent, Oxeye Daisy is found in Minnesota mostly in counties that are east of a diagonal line running SE to NW. Leucanthemum vulgare is the only species of Leucanthemum commonly found in Minnesota. In North America the species is usually found throughout. It was first collected in Minnesota in Hennepin County in 1878. The Giant Daisy, Leucanthemella serotina, is also known to be present in the state, but rarely found.
Noxious: Another claim to fame is that it is considered in Minnesota as an invasive plant and is on the "Secondary Noxious Weed" list. A number of other states also list it as such. The plant is not considered a threat to intact prairies and savannas. However, when it enters a disturbed site it will compete with native plants. It has naturalized all across the United States.
Lore: There is literature on the plants medicinal qualities going back to ancient times, and is said to have properties similar to Chamomile. John Gerard wrote: "Dioscorides saith that the floures of Oxeie made up in a seare clothe doe asswage and washe away cold hard swellings, and it is reported that if they be drunke by and by after bathing, they make them in a short time well-coloured that have been troubled with the yellow jaundice." (Ref.# 6a)
Poem: Dora Read Goodale (1866 - 1915) wrote a wonderful poem about this plant titled "Daisies" READ
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"