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




Eriophyllum lanatum:
Woolly Sunflower

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Bright yellow, 8 to 15 ray petals, tips turning pale with age, in loose clusters at top of stems.

Blooms: May - July

Leaves: Gray-Green on top, white woolly below, deeply cut, very fragrant.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: Dry trails throughout the Mountain.

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.

Eriophyllum lanatum
600x450 JPEG - 36K

- no image yet -

Further description & Comment: 2 to 3 feet tall, bushy plants. It's always a delight to come across a stand of these bright yellow flowers when they first start blooming in late spring - the yellow color is distinctively brighter and purer than its close relatives Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum) and Lizard Tail (Eriophyllum staechadifolium).



Eriophyllum staechadifolium:
Lizard Tail

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Yellow, tiny; in dense umbrellas at tops of stems, with 6 to 9 rays atop a bract of 8 to 11 phyllaries - compare to Eriophyllum confertiflorum (Golden Yarrow)

Blooms: May - September

Leaves: Gray-Green on top, white woolly below, deeply cut, very fragrant, can get up to 4 or 5 inches long, much larger than Golden Yarrow.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: All trails and areas. Gray Whale Cove Trail in McNee Ranch State Park has dense areas of it.

Status: Native - Common.

Eriophyllum staechadifolium
600x450 JPEG - 36K

Further description & Comment: 1 - 5 feet tall; shrubby. Eriophyllum staechadifolium is sometimes confused with the closely related Eriophyllum confertiflorum (Golden Yarrow), which is like a miniature version of Lizard Tail. Specifically, you can count the lobes of the corolla (petals): 4 to 6, it's Golden Yarrow; 6 to 9, it's Lizard Tail. Or you can count phyllarries (bracts around the flower head): 5 to 6 for Golden Yarrow, 8 to 11 for Lizard Tail.

In general (at least in our area), Lizard Tail is larger, has a wide habitat range and often grows in profuse colonies of many dozen plants, unlike Golden Yarrow which has smaller colonies and a more limited range. The page for Eriophyllum confertiflorum (Golden Yarrow) has a comparison image of the two plants.

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 Grindelia stricta platyphylla:
Coastal Gum Plant

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Yellow, with many petals, up to 2" across; sticky white gum in saucer-ish, spiky buds.

Blooms: May - October.

Leaves: Oval, long and slightly toothed, leaf base clasped around at stem.

Fruit/Seeds: Unknown

Location: Lower elevations, trails, roads, open areas.

Status: Native - Common.

Further description & Comment: 4 - 6 inches tall; in low clustered mounds. Thick, fleshy, reddish stem. Often with many flower buds in different stages of development. Some books give the scientific name as Grindelia stricta ssp venulosa or Grindelia latifolia.

Grindelia stricta platyphylla
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Gum Plants usually grow outward - this one shows the stem clasping leaves. The spiny bud is in the circled area of the photo.

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400x300 JPEG - 28K

400x300 JPEG - 28K

400x300 JPEG - 28K

Life as a Gum Plant: The various stages of the flower growth of Grindelia stricta platyphylla. The bud first appears as a small, green, spiny globe; the "Gum" part is shown in the second stage, when a sticky, white glue-like substance collects at the opening of the developing flower. As the petals develope, the "glue" receeds as the flower opens.

No one I've talked to knows the reason for the Glue-y stage - if anyone out there knows, please drop me a line!


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