The name is derived from the Greek words helisso (to turn around) and chrysos (gold). Common names include strawflower and everlasting.
Their leaves are oblong to lanceolate. They are flat and pubescent on both sides. The bristles of the pappus are scabrous, barbellate, or plumose.
The receptacle (base of the flower head) is often smooth, with a fringed margin, or honey-combed, and resemble daisies. They may be in almost all colors, except blue. There are many capitula and generally flat-topped corymbs or panicles. The corolla lobes show glandular hairs at the abaxial surface.
Helichrysum species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the bucculaticid leaf-miners Bucculatrix gnaphaliella (which feeds exclusively on Helichrysum arenarium) and Bucculatrix helichrysella (feeds exclusively on H. italicum) and the Coleophora case-bearers C. caelebipennella, C. gnaphalii (feeds exclusively on H arenarium) and C. helichrysiella (feeds exclusively on H. italicum).
Hilllard (1983) divided this large and heterogeneous genus in 30 morphological groups. But this genus is controversial and is considered by many as an artificial genus. The taxonomy of the large polymorphic and probably polyphyletic Helichrysum genus is complex and not yet satisfactorily resolved. Several Australian species, such as H. acuminatum and H. bracteatum, have been reclassified in the genus Xerochrysum in 1991, resp. as X. subundulatum and X. bracteatum. In 1989, misaligned species of Helichrysum were reclassified in Syncarpha. Species included in Pseudognaphalium are probably congeneric with Helichrysum. In 2004, A. Miller identified five potentially new species that have not yet been published but were included in the IUCN Red List data, given their restricted range in Yemen. They are as follows:
Established species include: