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




Helenium puberulum:

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

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.

Helenium puberulum
600x450 JPEG - 32K

440x380 JPEG - 32K
Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf

Further Description & Comment: 1 to 5 feet tall. Often found (as shown at left) growing near hanging sheets. :-)



Lactuca virosa:
Wild Lettuce

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

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.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: Disturbed areas along roads and trails.

Status: Alien - Invasive.

Lactuca virosa
600x450 JPEG - 20K

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?



Lasthenia californica:

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

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)
600x480 JPEG - 60K
Further description & Comment: 2 - 4 inches tall, stems slender and usually unbranched - forming vast carpets of gold in grasslands and woodlands.

Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf


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