Wild Flowers - Cistus albidus

The Grey-Leaved Cistus - Cistus albidus © Tony Hall
The Grey-Leaved Cistus - Cistus albidus © Tony Hall

The Grey-Leaved Cistus. Cistus albidus

Cistus are often referred to as rock or sun roses because of their appearance and habitat.

This particular species, Cistus albidus, usually forms nice compact,woody, evergreenshrubs, growing to around 1m tall and 1m wide. It gets its common name from its soft-velvetystalkless leaves,which have a greyish-white appearance due to a fine covering of fine hairs on both surfaces of the leaf.

Thecolour of the leaves contrasts beautifully with the small terminal clusters of the purplish-pink, 5-petaled flowers, 40-60cm across.Each of the petals has a crumpled tissue paper appearance. The pinkfades intoa yellow patchat their bases, and they have numerous orange stamens in the centre. These are very popular with bees, which collect large amounts of pollen as they work from flower to flower.

There is also a less common white form found in the wild, which is a bit confusing as the Latin species epithetalbidus, means white, or whitish. This though refers to the leaves greyish-white covering of hairs, rather than the white flowered form itself.

It is quite common to find natural hybrids between Cistus albidusand its close ally, Cistus crispus, a smaller plant with redder flowers and small, rough, hairy,undulate leaves. The hybrid has a darker flower, with larger undulate leaves.

Like all cistus the individual flowers are short-lived, with petals falling soon after midday, butthey are replaced with a new flush of flowers each day.

A common plant found growing mainly in open rocky ground. Flowering from March to June.

Tony Hall, Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, specialising in the plants of Andalucía.