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California everlasting is a sturdy annual, biennial or short-lived perennial plant. In early spring, there is a basal rosette of leaves from which grows one or a few upright branches usually less than three feet (1 m) tall. Short lateral branches occur near the top of the plant. The stem and both sides of the leaves are soft and green and very sticky; sometimes scattered woolly hairs give them a gray tinge. Leaves are lanceolate, often broadened at base, usually less than six inches (15 cm) in length. The margins may be turned under and are often wavy. Leaves lack petioles; the leaf base clasps the stem and may extend down the stem in two short ridges. Both stems and leaves are covered with small glandular hairs and are more or less aromatic. The odor has been variously described as maple syrup, pineapple, citrus or curry.
Many members of the genus Pseudognaphalium, including California everlasting, are preferred hosts for the American lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis). The American lady resembles the painted lady and the west coast lady. All of them may be found in the Reserve, but the others are less likely to feed on everlasting. The caterpillar lives in a nest of the flowers and leaves of the host, holding them together with excreted threads of silk. It may form its chrysalis inside that nest. Some plants remain where you plant them; others move around in the garden. The movers are those plants – often annuals or perennials – that re-seed where ever conditions are suitable. Rather than fighting it, we let the movers pop up (within reason) in different places each year, adding an element of spontaneity to the gardens. One such plant is the California everlasting, Pseudognaphalium californicum (pronounced soo-doe-nah-FAY-lee-um cal-ee-FOR-ni-cum).
Pseudognaphalium californicum (syn. Gnaphalium californicum) is a species of flowering plant in the Asteraceae (Sunflower) family known by several common names, including ladies' tobacco, California rabbit tobacco, California cudweed, and California everlasting. It is native to the west coast of North America from Washington to Baja California, where it is a member of the flora of many habitats, including chaparral. In California it is most often found near the coast from Sonoma County southward and in the Sierra foothills. This is an annual or biennial herb growing a branching stem reaching 20 to 80 centimeters in height. Stem branches bear linear to somewhat lance-shaped leaves 2 to 20 centimeters long. The green herbage is hairy, sticky and scented. The flower head is a wide cluster of flowers, each enveloped in an involucre of rows of bright white phyllaries. The flowers are very long lasting when dried and are used in flower arrangements. Classification is disputed between the genera Pseudognaphalium and Gnaphalium but it is presently classified as Pseudognaphlium. There is also uncertainty in the common name; some sources refer to it as Pearly Everlasting which is actually a separate species (Anaphlis margaritacea). It would work best in an informal or garden or wildscape. It re-seeds itself prolifically so be prepared to pull seedlings from areas where it is not wanted. (Source: calscape.org)