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Candytuft Flowers

This article was first published on 19 Jul 2019.

Iberis gibraltarica

Iberis gibraltarica

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

There are many species of candytuft or Iberis ranging from annuals to shrubby perennials. Flowers vary in colour from white to pale pink through to purple. Interestingly, the common name candytuft has nothing to do with sweets but is derived from Candia, the former name of Heraklion, the capital of Crete.

Being in the brassica family, Iberis typically, has four-petalled flowers. In candytuft, these are bunched tightly in flat topped clusters and open from the outside in. With unopened buds in the centre and the outer petals being larger than the inner it creates a starburst effect.

Dotted throughout the rock garden at Dunedin Botanic Garden is the pure white Iberis sempervirens 'Weisser Zwerg' ('Little Gem'). This flowers in early spring continuing right through summer and sporadically throughout the year.

The larger flowered Iberis gibraltarica has a similar flowering period, but with the warm winter we are having it is blooming at present on the bank below the large pine tree at the north end of the rock garden. This is a woody based perennial which grows to around forty centimetres tall, the flowers reaching 8cm across can be any shade of white through to pale pink and into deeper violet-pink.

It will come as no surprise that Gibraltar candytuft is native to the Rock of Gibraltar, also to the Tangier Peninsula of North Africa. It is the national flower of Gibraltar and can be found growing naturally in shady limestone crevices on the Rock’s north face.