Yes, Virginia, chocolate comes in flowers, too! The chocolate daisy is rich in both scent and names. Known as the chocolate flower, green-eyed lyre leaf, lyreleaf green eyes or just plain green eyes, the chocolate daisy is part of the genus Berlandiera lyrata and family Asteraceae, which also includes asters and sunflowers.
The chocolate daisy is a perennial (lasts over 2 years) that blooms at night. The golden-yellow flowers open at twilight, which is why their aroma is strongest in the morning. As temperatures rise, the petals temporarily drop and the fragrance recedes. And that is when the green centers or ‘eyes’ stand out. The undersides of the yellow petals are striped red, which adds to the color intrigue of this interesting little plant.
Most fragrant when planted in groups, the chocolate daisy is a favorite of birds and bees. Interestingly enough, the same chocolaty goodness that serves as an attractor also serves as a repellant for deer and rabbits.
Though diminutive in size, chocolate daisies are hearty and hardy, requiring less maintenance than many other plants. Native to the southwestern United States — from Colorado to Texas and into Mexico — they are known to grow along roadsides and in grasslands. This is great news for folks who live in places that feature dry soil on the alkaline side.
Drought tolerant, they do well in soil types that are dry, shallow, or rocky. When planted in full sun, they bloom from spring until frost and can do well in high elevations. When mowed, the plants will grow back vigorously but are not invasive.
In optimal growing conditions, chocolate daisies readily reseed. Seeds can be collected from the plant itself and germinated outdoors from spring to fall. A layer of gravel beneath the plants will help hold fallen seeds in place for new volunteer plants. Excess water will cause the plants to develop floppy stems. And since they do not do well in poor drainage spots, they are especially prone to winter damage.
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People often ask if the chocolate daisy tastes as good as it smells. The answer would be yes, but only if you are a fan of unsweetened chocolate! Classified as an herb, it is actually edible and can be used to garnish your salads. .
Chocolate daisy seeds are readily available both online and off. It the soil is right, the plants are easy to cultivate and maintain, and make a great gift for chocolate-loving gardeners. In fact, your thoughtfulness will be remembered on many chocolate-scented mornings to come!