Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

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).

Members of Asteraceae may have one or both of these, and the family is usually divided into three categories:

- Ray Flowers (examples: dandelions, Sow Thistle ) - Division I,
- Disk Flowers (examples: Pearly Everlasting, Brownie Thistle) - Division II, and
- Both (example: Seaside Daisy) - Division III.

Some family members of Asteraceae found on Montara Mountain:

Achillea millefolium
Common Yarrow

Anaphalis margaritacea
Pearly Everlasting

Artemesia californica
Sage Brush

Artemesia douglasiana

Artemesia pycnicephala
Beach Sagewort

Aster chilensis
Coast Aster

Baccharis pilularis
Coyote Bush

Cirsium occidentale
Cobweb Thistle

Cirsium quercetorum
Brownie Thistle

Cirsium vulgare
Bull Thistle

Erigeron glaucus
Seaside Daisy

Eriophyllum confertiflorum
Golden Yarrow

Eriophyllum lanatum
Woolly Sunflower

Eriophyllum staechadifolium
Lizard Tail

Grindelia stricta platyphylla
Gum Plant

Helenium puberulum

Lactuca virosa
Wild Lettuce

Lasthenia californica

Madia sativa
Madia or Tarweed

Senecio Mikaniodes
Cape Ivy

Solidago californica

Sonchus oleraceus
Sow Thistle

Wyethia angustifolia
Narrow-leaved Mule Ears




 Achillea millefolium:
Common Yarrow

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: White, tiny; in dense, flattened clusters. Some varieties may be pinkish, but the Montara Mountain family is usually white or cream colored.

Blooms: April - October.

Leaves: Feathery, soft, dark green and fragrant.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: Along dry trails and throughout open areas and woods.

Status: Native - Common.

 Achillea millefolium
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Further description & Comment: 1 - 3 ft tall. Soft white hairs on stems. The distinctive leaves begin to sprout along trails in early March. Some books describe the fragrance of the leaves as "unpleasant" - I find it one of the nicest smells on the mountain and usually keep a handful of crushed leaves with me on walks.

Yarrow has a variety of medicinal and herbal uses. Its concentration of camphors, oils and aromatics make a popular teatment for fevers and colds. The hemostatic characteristic is good for stopping or slowing bleeding from small cuts, and is soothing for muscle aches and inflammation. The root can be chewed for relief of tooth and gum pain and swelling.

To the left, a young plant grows alongside Gray Whale Cove trail. Note the flowers developing as a dense bud ball. Below, images of mature flower heads show the color variation from pinkish to creanm colored.

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 Anaphalis margaritacea:
Pearly Everlasting

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: White, papery bracts with yellow - to - red flowers in the center; in tight clusters at tops of stems. The flower bracts dry and remain on the stem until late fall when the plant dies back.

Blooms: June - September.

Leaves: Shiny bright to dark green, narrow, 3-4 inches long, no fragrance, alternately arranged on stem, often covered with fine, spider web-like silk.

Fruit/Seeds: Unknown

Location: Along dry trails and throughout open areas and woods.

Status: Native - Common.

Further description & Comment: .5 - 3 ft tall. Stem unbranched. Closely related cudweeds can be confusing - Frgrant Everlasting native (Gnaphilium californicum) similar, but with very fragrant leaves and earlier bloom (Apr-Aug.)

 Anaphalis margaritacea
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 A patch of Pearly in San Pedro Valley County Park along the Brooks Falls trail. Pearly grows in colonies of a dozen or more plants arising off parallel woody root systems. These were from early in the season (February).  Not Pearly ? - This may be an alien cudweed of unknown species often confused with Pearly Everlasting. Or it may be Pearly. We're not sure. Until the flowers come out fully, it can be difficult to tell.

Anaphalis margaritacea can be used medicinally as an anti-imflammatory and astrigent. It can be used as a tea for gastric disturbances, as a poultice for bruises and contusions, as has been fried and cured for Native American smoking mixtures.



 Artemesia californica:
Coast Sage Brush
(Coastal Sage)

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Whiteish-Yellow and small; in dense clusters along ends of stems.

Blooms: August - October.

Leaves: Silvery-gray, finely divided and thread-like with classic sage fragrance - like Thanksgiving Turkey seasoning.

Fruit/Seeds: Small, Gold to nut brown to black at former flower bases, Oct - Dec.

Location: Everywhere on the mountain, but more common nearer the ocean.

Status: Native - Common.

Further description & Comment: 2 -4 feet tall, evergreen. One of the signature plants of Coastal Scrub & Chaparral, along with Poison Oak, Coyote Bush, Yellow Bush Lupine and Sticky Monkey Flower. Although not the same as culinary sage, the leaves, fresh or dried, make excellent seasoning.

 Artemesia californica
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A mature plant begins to set seed in the late Summer in McNee Ranch State Park.

 Sedate and subtle silver-gray Sage is often observed keeping company with the more boldly colored and rowdy Poison Oak.


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