Damianita - Chrysactinia mexicana
Location: In a curbside bed in front of the Marc A. Nigliazzo Administration Building on Marvin Felder Drive on the West Campus. (Map)
Technically this plant is a small shrub, but it works well as a perennial in the landscape. Although it is native to the Trans-Pecos, Edward’s Plateau and New Mexico as well as Mexico, it is well adapted to Central Texas. Damianita is very much like the herb Santolina1 with one exception. Damianita is covered with beautiful yellow blooms off and on throughout the hottest part of the summer and well into fall whereas Santolina has a shorter bloom period. The mounded growth habit of the plant gives the appearance of a single bouquet of delicate flowers, but this drought-tolerant beauty is one of the toughest plants used in landscaping.
Damianita is a member of the plant Family Asteraceae (Compositae). The first syllable of the genus name, chrys =golden, indicates the flower color. Both the disk and ray flowers are a bright golden-yellow. This plant is an evergreen shrub with dark green leaves that are less than half an inch long and it has a much-branched taproot. The previously mention mounded-growth pattern attains a size of about twelve inches in height and diameter. Some plants as much as two feet in height have been photographed in the Big Bend.2 When any part of the plant is crushed a pungent scent comes from orange oil glands located through out the plant. This scent is said to protect the plant from being eaten by deer. Damianita was used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes such as fever, diuretic, rheumatism and antispasmodic. It was also said to be an aphrodisiac.
In the landscape, Damianita must have good drainage and lots of sun light. It is very drought-tolerant so it needs minimal watering even in the hottest summer weather.
Damianita will seed itself from the seeds produce in the achenes formed in the disk flowers of the infloresence. Softwood cuttings taken in the summer are another good way to propagate these durable and beautiful plants.