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




 Artemesia douglasiana:

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Whiteish-Green to Whiteish Yellow, tiny; in tight clusters along stems.

Blooms: July - August.

Leaves: Dark Green above, grey-green below. Sometime with a light powdery silk on upper leaves. Very strong sage smell, bitter tasting; lower leaves shaped like goosefeet.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: All trails at lower elevations.

Status: Native - Common.

Artemesia douglasiana
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A top down view of Mugwort, the most common way to view it from the trails.

Further description & Comment: 1 - 5' tall; stout and erect. Usually found growing in large patches of up to 100 plants, all interconnected by an underground root system. Favors wetter areas near seeps and creeks.

Below left, a Mugwort patch that grows alongside Gray Whale Cove trail. Below right, the flowers and seeds.

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Mugwort is often found growing next to Stinging Nettle. Some have made the claim the application of fresh Mugwort leaves can be a cure for the effects of Stinging Nettle or Poison Oak. I don't get Posion Oak, so I can't try any tests, but I have checked it out with Stinging Nettle - the effect, on me anyway, is minimal.

Mugwort is an effective herbal remedy for chronic gastritis and gastric ulcers. A carefully prepared salve or tea of Mugwort is antifungal, antimicrobial, and a topical anesthetic with a variety of first aid uses. These last applications undoubtedly gave rise to the Posion Oak theory.



 Artemesia pycnocephala
Beach Sagewort

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Yellow, tiny; in dense clusters along stems.

Blooms: June - October

Leaves: White to Gray-Green, velvety, no real fragrance.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: Bluff trails and along beach cliffs.

Status: Native - Common.

Further description & Comment: 1 - 2 ft tall.

Artemesia pycnocephala
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A close-up of the flower stalk

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 As if the plant isn't showy enough already with its silvery foliage, the summer flower stalks (up to 2 ft tall) can be quite eye-catching.



 Aster chilensis
Coast Aster

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Pale blue with yellow centers, many petals, conspicuous ouetr bracts; in loose clusters.

Blooms: May - November

Leaves: Long and narrow, large at base. Shorter linear leaves along stem.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: Along all grassy trails in dryer areas.

Status: Native - Common.

Further description & Comment: Asters bloom well into November, and are often the last flowers seen along the trails on a late fall hike.

Aster chilensis
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