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Somewhat straggly evergreen shrubs 2 to 4 ft high, of bushy habit; young stems, undersurface of leaves and leaf-stalks all clothed in a dense white felt. Leaves obovate, broadly elliptic or ovate, rather abruptly narrowed or rounded at the base, blunt at the end, entire or obscurely wavy, 1 to 3 in. long, 1⁄2 to 13⁄4 in. wide, becoming smaller near the inflorescence, those at the first forks of the inflorescence narrowed to a stalk-like base, upper surface at first thinly grey-felted, becoming glabrous, dark green, without a persistent white margin when seen from above; stalks 3⁄8 to 11⁄4 in. long. Flower-heads about 1 in. wide, in loose terminal panicles; ray-florets 11-15, bright yellow.
The designation Senecio Dunedin Hybrids is given here to cover all cultivated senecios which derive apparently from hybridisation between S. compactus, S. greyi and S. laxifolius, including backcrosses. Though typical plants of the latter two species are distinct, more or less intermediate populations are found in both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, and the correctness of their maintenance as specifically distinct is open to doubt. From typical S. laxifolius, the hybrids may be distinguished by their relatively broader, more rounded leaves; from typical S. greyi, by the leaves at the first forks of the inflorescence having a narrowed stalk-like, not a sessile expanded, base; and from S. compactus, by their larger leaves, laxer habit and the absence of a conspicuous white margin to the upper surface of the leaves.
cv. ‘Sunshine’. – This is the commonest variant in cultivation in the British Isles, widely and erroneously referred to in the horticultural literature as S. greyi or S. laxifolius. It appears to be of the origin S. compactus × S. laxifolius and has usually non-wavy leaves with gradually tapered bases, and eglandular, white-felted flower-stalks and involucral scales. However, variants that exhibit S. greyi characters, e.g., larger, more rounded leaves and glandular as well as white-felted flower-stalks and involucral scales, are also known, but have yet to be given names. ‘Sunshine’ is described in The Garden (Journ. R.H.S.), Vol. 102 (1977), pp. 161-3.
Senecio Dunedin Hybrids are the most frequently cultivated of the shrubby senecios in British gardens. Most past records of the cultivation of S. laxifolius and S. greyi refer in fact to these plants. The earliest known specimens date back to 1910-13 and originated from the Dunedin Botanic Garden, New Zealand, hence the name here given to them. The use of the horticultural name S. × crustii is avoided here, as it is now uncertain to what plant this name was originally applied, although probably it was to a plant of the parentage S. laxifolius × S. compactus.