EVERLASTING, or Immortelle, a plant belonging to the division Tubuliflorae of the natural order Compositae, known botanically as Helichrysum orientale. It is a native of North Africa, Crete, and the parts of Asia bordering on the Mediterranean; and it is cultivated in many parts of Europe. It first became known in Europe about the year 1629, and has been cultivated since 1815. In common with several other plants of the same group, known as "everlastings," the immortelle plant possesses a large involucre of dry scale-like or scarious bracts, which preserve their appearance when dried, provided the plant be gathered in proper condition. The chief supplies of Helichrysum orientale come from lower Provence, where it is cultivated in large quantities on the ground sloping to the Mediterranean, in positions well exposed to the sun, and usually in plots surrounded by dry stone walls. The finest flowers are grown on the slopes of Bandols and Ciotat, where the plant begins to flower in June. It requires a light sandy or stony soil, and is very readily injured by rain or heavy dews. It can be propagated in quantity by means of offsets from the older stems. The flowering stems are gathered in June, when the bracts are fully developed, all the fully-expanded and immature flowers being pulled off and rejected. A well-managed plantation is productive for eight or ten years. The plant is tufted in its growth, each plant producing 60 or 70 stems, while each stem produces an average of 20 flowers. About 400 such stems weigh a kilogramme. A hectare of ground will produce 40,000 plants, bearing from 2,400,000 to 2,800,000 stems, and weighing from 52 to 62 tons, or from 2 to 3 tons per acre. The colour of the bracts is a deep yellow. The natural flowers are commonly used for garlands for the dead, or plants dyed black are mixed with the yellow ones. The plant is also dyed green or orange-red, and thus employed for bouquets or other ornamental purposes.
Other species of Helichrysum and species of allied genera with scarious heads of flowers are also known as "everlastings." One of the best known is the Australian species H. bracteatum, with several varieties, including double forms, of different colours; H. vestitum (Cape of Good Hope) has white satiny heads. Others are species of Helipterum (West Australia and South Africa), Ammobium and Waitzia (Australia) and Xeranthemum (south Europe). Several members of the natural order Amarantaceae have also "everlasting" flowers; such are Gomphrena globosa, with rounded or oval heads of white, orange, rose or violet, scarious bracts, and Celosia pyramidalis, with its elegant, loose, pyramidal inflorescences. Frequently these everlastings are mixed with bleached grasses, as Lagurus ovatus, Briza maxima, Bromus brizaeformis, or with the leaves of the Cape silver tree (Leucadendron argenteum), to form bouquets or ornamental groups.
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