Madia is part of the asteraceae family, also more commonly known as the aster or the daisy family. Other common names include oil plant and tar weed. Interestingly, there are about 18 species that fall under the genus Madia; however, only two of the species are grown in gardens, Madia sativa and M. elegans. M. sativa usually grows near the woody areas and is almost considered to be nearly weed-like while M. elegans is considered the prettier plant of the two with a larger flower.
Both species of madia have ragged looking daisies that range in color from light yellow to orangey-yellow. Their centers can be brown or dark red in color. They grow from two to four feet (.61 – 1.2 m) in height, as well. Some shade is preferred because their flowers will close up if there is full sun, especially at midday. As mentioned above the flower on the M. elegans is larger, while the flower on the M. sativa is small, weedy, and almost non-descript.
The leaves of the madia are three to five inches (7.6 – 12.7 cm) long, but quite narrow. They can almost be considered blade-like. In addition, if a person touches the leaves, she will notice that they feel sticky. Uniquely, the leaves are scented, as well. Some people believe the leaves smell like mangoes, while others claim they are pineapple or berry scented.
The madia has an interesting history. In America, where they originally were wildflowers, the M. elegans were sought out by the Native Americans because the seeds of the plant were very rich with oils. The M. sativa was a native plant to Chile. Consequently, the Arucana people of Chile also searched for it as a good source of oil and even protein through its seeds.
Although many people treasure the madia plants, they are not extremely popular in gardens because they are slow growers and their flowers are considered average. Some gardeners do enjoy cultivating the plants, especially since they can be grown from seeds without any problems. In fact, the seeds can be sown into the ground in early spring for cooler climates and in the fall months for warmer climates. Gardeners must beware of overwatering the plants, since they grow best when the soil conditions are dry.
Although the madia has been around for centuries, gardeners should study the flower before planting. It can be considered invasive in some areas and may not look as aesthetically pleasing after planting. Although it prefers cooler climates, it can grow well in a wide range of areas.