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: Yellow, sunflower-like (Ray/Disk) flowers, solitary at end of main stems, 20 or so rays.
Blooms: March - May.
Leaves: Mostly basal, long, linear with a tapering blade.
Fruit/Seeds: Many, small & dark, developing in center disk.
Location: Growing in spreading colonies on open bluffs and grassy hillsides at lower elevations.
Status: Native - Common.
- no image yet: in the meantime, this link will take you to the images for Eriophyllum lanatum. in the flowers section of the Berkeley Digital Image Project.
- no picture -
Further description & Comment: Mule Ears are the first substantial yellow flower in the spring, and can be spotted easily as large, bright spots of yellow on the hillsides in late winter/early spring.
The colonies spread each year through reseeding, and often form an expanding ring as the each year's new plants tend to sprout on the edges of the colony.
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