The Greeks named this a smelly shrub.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
Photo courtesy of California
Cut Flower Commission
1 A POPULAR FILLER. Pronounced
“oz-o-THAM-nus di-os-mi-FO-lee-um,” this flower has become popular on
world markets as a filler material for many types of arrangements. The
stems of this shrub are mostly woody and have approximately
one-half-inch-long linear fuzzy leaves. It usually grows to about 2 feet
to 3 feet high. The tiny white or pink flowers appear in clusters at the
ends of the branches.
2 AROMATIC FOLIAGE. The blossoms of
rice flowers do not have fragrance, but when the leaves are crushed,
they have a strong aroma. The botanical name refers to this; the Greek
word “ozo” means “to smell,” and “thamnos” means “shrub.” Avoid long
periods of exposure to rice flowers, or itchy skin and hay-feverlike
reactions such as runny nose and itchy eyes and throat might occur.
3 FAMILY RELATIONS. Rice flower is a
member of the Asteraceae, or Compositae, (aster or daisy) family. Common
relatives include chrysanthemums, marigolds, sunflowers, Zinnias and
4 AUSSIE BORN. Ozothamnus is a
native of Australia and New Zealand. It is commercially produced in
southern Queensland, Australia. Much of the product grown there is
exported to Asian markets, where it is extremely popular for its flowers
and fragrance. Ozothamnus is available from August through December from
Australia and from August through May from California.
5 SHOPPER ALERT. Purchase rice
flowers when about half of the small buds or “grains” look full and
puffy but not open. Avoid bunches that show too many open buds. Mature
blossoms will fall apart, and immature blossoms will wilt. Avoid bunches
that show signs of leaf drop.
6 HANDLING TECHNIQUES. Unpack the
product as soon as it arrives in the shop. Remove all packing materials
and any foliage on the stems that would fall below the water line. Dip
or place the stems into a hydrating solution following package
directions, then put them into a properly prepared fresh flower-food
7 CONDITION AND HARDEN. After
processing rice flowers, allow the stems to take up water for at least
two hours. Misting the flowers while they are conditioning is
beneficial. Harden these stems in a floral refrigerator at 34 F to 38 F
for at least two hours before designing with or selling them.
8 VASE LIFE. Rice flowers will last
from seven to 14 days in fresh arrangements. They need to be kept away
from drafts and direct sunlight, electronic appliances and other sources
of heat. Misting, cooling at night and changing the vase water at least
every other day will help these blossoms to last well.
9 FOREVER AND EVER. Ozothamnus was
formerly named Helichrysum—“the everlastings.” These flowers are
suitable for drying and will last well in permanent designs.
10 OTHER USES. Oil derived from
Ozothamnus diosmifolium can be used as a room deodorizer and as a
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of
horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 26
years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.
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