As is true throughout the Bay Area and California, the Asteraceae or Sunflower family has more species than any other family of flowering plants. Luckily, the distinctive structure of the flower heads makes identifying members of this family somewhat easy:
Sepals are absent, sometimes replaced by a structures of hairs and scales called a pappus. Small dry fruit develops below the pappus containing a single seed, that is dispersed by wind or animals.
Each head consists of several to many small flowers attached to a disk shaped, conical, or concave receptacle. For identification and classification, the flowers are considered either disk flowers (those with a tubular structure and found in the center disk) or ray flowers (with a flat, petal like corolla distributed around the margins).
Flowers: Tiny yellow petals below large brown dome-like flower centers. The image at right is the blooming flower.
Blooms: May - August.
Leaves: Long and narrow, forming wings along stems.
Fruit/Seeds: Dense cluster of small dark seeds around plant head after flower blooms, July - August.
Location: All trails and areas, favors damper areas.
Status: Native - Common.
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|Further Description & Comment: 1 to 5 feet tall. Often found (as shown at left) growing near hanging sheets. :-)|
Flowers: Yellow, dandelion-like in tight cluster atop tall stem.
Blooms: July - September.
Leaves: Bright bluish-green, clasping stem, with prominent white center vein, sharply toothed along margin and along center vein on leaf backside.
Location: Disturbed areas along roads and trails.
Status: Alien - Invasive.
Further description & Comment: 2 to 5 feet tall, a strikingly noticable plant along the trail.
The Genus name Lactuca. refers to the milky sap found in the leaves and the stems. As shown on the image at left, the sap dries quickly to an orange resin. The dried flowering stems have a minor medicinal value as a mild sedative and cough-suppressant.
Why it is called "Wild Lettuce" is beyond me - perhaps other Genus members are more reminescent of lettuce heads?
Flowers: Many petals, yellow head ray, yellow - orange bracts on outside free from each other.
Blooms: March - May.
Leaves: Opposite pairs, linear, sparesly haired.
Fruit/Seeds: Tiny, in flower center, with 4 linear bristles on top.
Location: Coastal Bluff areas, along Gray Whale Cove trail.
Status: Native - Widespread.
Goldfields (Lasthenia californica)
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|Further description & Comment: 2 - 4 inches tall, stems slender and usually unbranched - forming vast carpets of gold in grasslands and woodlands.|
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