Phylica pubescens, commonly called featherhead, is a narrow-leaved, erect and evergreen shrub of up to 2 m.
The modified leaves or bracts have a feathery appearance at the branch-tips. These silky bracts form a sort of shaggy flower-head, about 5 cm in diameter, sheltering the small autumn and winter flowers. The leaves are leathery, concentrated towards branch tips and their margins rolled under. The flowers are white, very small and exude a cinnamon fragrance. The feathery bracts overshadow the actual flowers as a feature (also for the flower market).
The fruit is a hard dehiscent, three-sectioned capsule with valves that open upon ripening, releasing the seeds around the end of spring. These seeds have elaiosome attachments, serving to feed ants and entice them to disperse the seeds.
The species distribution is in the southern coastal region of the Western Cape.
The habitat is sandstone and limestone flats and slopes. None of the three recognised P. pubescens varieties is considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century.
Many of the other Western Cape Phylica species share the leaf attribute that led to the Afrikaans name of hardeblaar (hard leaf). The top parts of featherheads are often picked as cut flowers or especially also as dried flowers. The plants are also popular garden subjects, mainly in the winter rainfall area (Manning 2007; iNaturalist; www.plantzafrica.com; http://redlist.sanbi.org).