Loosely speaking, all plant species of the family Asteraceae (from the Greek “aster” meaning star, since these flowers tend to have starlike appearances) are daisies, though this includes sunflowers, many varieties of lettuce, artichokes, and other plants that most people don’t associate with daisies.
The name “daisy” itself is a contraction of the phrase “day’s eye.” The original daisy was the English daisy, which closes up at night and then opens again every morning, like an eye opening to greet the new day.
Daisies originated in northern Europe, but by the 1600s had spread not only throughout the rest of Europe but into much of the rest of the world, including the Americas. Now they can be found in every country in the world. Daisies make up nearly ten percent of the flowering plants on Earth, and are running neck and neck with the orchid family for the most genera and species.
If we were really to talk about all the daisy varieties, we’d have to settle in for awhile, as there are over 20,000 species in the Asteraceae family. Instead, here are ten of the most popular types of daisies:
1. African Daisy
The African daisy is an annual with petals that flare upward rather than pointing out flat. It comes in colors including orange, pink, red, white, yellow, and an especially striking purple.
There are 180 recognized species of asters, all but one limited to Eurasia. Asters have yellow centers with brightly colored petals, in the starlike arrangement associated with daisies.
3. Black-Eyed Susan
Also called the gloriosa daisy, the black-eyed susan has petals that can range from bright yellow to more of a gold, with a distinctive, darker center (the “black eye”).
Chrysanthemums are of the Asteraceae family and thus are daisies in that sense, though most people think of them as their own type of flower. There are at least 30 species of chrysanthemum. Most have a yellow center and white or yellow petals, but they also come in blue, pink, purple, red, and more. In parts of Africa, Chrysanthemums are grown as a food crop.
There are 36 species of dahlia. Though also of the Asteraceae family, most of these perennials do not have the typical daisy appearance, but look fuller and more ruffled.
Dismissed as a weed by most Americans, the ubiquitous dandelion is a small, bright yellow flower. Used as a food in many cultures, dandelions actually are quite rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
7. English Daisy
The aforementioned English daisy is really the only true daisy as far as purists are concerned. It has a yellow center, with white, off-white, or occasionally pinkish petals.
Fleabane is a very small flower with a head less than an inch wide, similar in color to the English daisy with a yellow center, and white or pink-tinged petals. Its name comes from the traditional belief that it is useful in warding off fleas and other insect pests. (It’s not.) This type of daisy is also the flower most often used for the “she loves me, she loves me not” game of young lovers.
9. Globe Thistle
The globe thistle also lacks the classic daisy appearance, being more ball shaped. These large perennials (2 to 5 feet tall) are typically a metallic blue or purple in color.
10. Shasta Daisy
White petals surround the bright yellow center of this tall, bobbing perennial. It blooms from late spring to early fall, and is one of the most attractive and popular of garden plants.
Daisies are typically very easy to grow, and can thrive even in quite dry soil. They readily attract butterflies, bees, and birds to any garden, coming in almost every color and size. There are few gardeners who have no room for some lovely daisies.
Keri Honea, “Kinds of Daisy Flowers.” eHow.
“Top 5 Daisy Flowers.” Gardening Central.
“What are the Different Types of Daisies?” Wise Geek.
“What Are the Different Types of Daisy Flowers?” Garden Guides.