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Featured Plant

Montanoa spp.


Scientific Name: Montanoa spp. including M. guatemalensis, M. pteropoda, M. tomentosa var. xanthiifolia, M. leucantha var. arborescens

Common Names: Tree daisy

Family: Asteraceae

Plant Type: Tree/large shrub/vine

Environment: Native to cloud forests, so it prefers moderate temperatures. Plant in full sun and water occasionally to regularly – can be somewhat drought tolerant once established but looks much better with irrigation. Some leaf drop with frost but no stem damage.

Bloom: September, October, November, December, January, February

Uses:Accent plant; makes a spectacular display, covered with flowers from fall into winter.

Other: Native to southern Mexico through Central America.



Montanoa spp.

Fall is blooming time in the cloud forests of the Botanical Garden, and Montanoa species are now in profuse bloom with their daisy-like flowers of white ray petals surrounding golden disc florets.

Cloud forests are unique ecosystems occupying mountain ridges from 4000 to 10,000 feet, running from Mexico to Peru with mild temperatures, plenty of moisture and little variation. How can San Francisco with its maritime climate simulate the conditions of a high altitude forest in Mexico with 200 inches of rain a year? A mild climate with plenty of frost-free winter rains and ubiquitous summer fog make it all possible.

Our Mesoamerican Cloud Forest got its start in 1984, when Dr. Dennis Breedlove started collecting cuttings and seeds from high montane forests in Chiapas, Mexico, in a grand experiment. Thirty years later, we enjoy a "Mayan wonderland", our own Mesoamerican Cloud Forest right here in San Francisco.

Groundcovers, 10-foot tree dahlias, passion vines, Mexican pines, monkey hand trees, daisy trees and a host of other tropical plants grow together in wild profusion, all extending their reach as far as possible for their own bit of sunlight. This special garden has become a sanctuary for plants now extinct in their native lands, and is at its best during late the fall and winter months. There are 30 to 50 species of Montanoa growing in Central America.

San Francisco Botanical Garden grows four species of these lovely trees:

  • Montanoa guatemalensis, in cultivation, can be massive with multi-trunks and dense, lush foliage reaching 20-40 feet in height. The entire tree can be covered with 2-3 inch white daisies, followed by fluffy, lime-colored bracts surrounding the developing fruits. These pompom-like clusters cover the tree completely, adding more interest as winter progresses. Leaves can be huge, 12 by 13 inches, often three sided in shape, but variable depending on the season.

  • Montanoa leucantha var. arborescens is a large shrub or small tree with arching branches. The pale green leaves can have a light menthol scent and the flowers in mass have a sweet cherry scent.

  • The leaves of Montanoa tomentosa were used in traditional medicine for making herbal teas to increase virility.

  • Montanoa pteropoda can be a large shrub or scrambling vine.

Text by Kathy McNeil and Mona Bourell. Photos by Joanne Taylor. Additional photos provided by James Gaither and Mona Bourell.


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