An Australia native, rice flower (or sago flower) is a woody shrub prized for its uncommon beauty. Its most notable feature lies in its blossoms, whose dense, spherical shape resembles the grains of rice commonly used in international cuisines (or thrown over newlywed couples in weddings). Since the times of ancient Greece, the plant has been cherished for its “everlasting beauty,” which is likely in reference to its lengthy vase life, especially when dried. This is why rice flower is often called “immortelle” (everlasting) by the Greeks.
A member of the Asteraceae family, the genus Ozothamnus (formerly Helichrysum) comprises 53 species available as annuals or biennials, 43 of which are endemic to Australia. The genus name is derived from the Greek words “ozo” (meaning smell) and “thamnos” (meaning bush), as most species and cultivars feature spicy—and oftentimes unpleasant—scents. Most species originate from mountainous and subalpine regions, and are known to tolerate extreme growing conditions.