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




Madia sativa:
Coast Madia (Tarweed)

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Yellow with many finely notched petals, sticky and tiny; in tight clusters at top

Blooms: July - September.

Leaves: Dark green, narrow and very sticky.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: All trails and areas.

Status: Native - Common.

Further description & Comment: 2 - 4 feet tall; stout sticky nodding stems. Often found (as shown at right) growing near hanging sheets. :-)

Madia sativa
360x480 JPEG - 44K

Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf



Senecio mikaniodes:
Cape (German) Ivy

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Yellow, composite, pin-cushion flower heads.

Blooms: November - March

Leaves: Yellow-green, heart-shaped, with 5 - 7 sharp angled points.

Fruit/Seeds: Small clusters of white/green berries in spring.

Location: Mainly along creek beds and riparian areas, but can spread upland into dryer areas.

Status: Alien - Invasive - Common.

Senecio mikaniodes
600x450 JPEG - 32K
Cape Ivy is one of the four most bothersome invasive plant species on the San Mateo Coast. The other three are Pampas Grass, Poison Hemlock, and French Broom. All four have the tendency to take over disturbed areas, create monocultures, crowd out similar native plants, and destroy native habitat. Cape Ivy must be completely removed - the least bit of vine or leaf left behind can regenerate into a full plant.

600x450 JPEG - 84K

Further description & Comment: Climbing, choking vines that root as they travel, making removal extremely difficult. The winter bloom of this plant is probably related to its southern hemisphere origins.

One of the nastiest and most destructive of the alien invasives. Cape Ivy has almost completely covered the banks of Martini Creek from the ocean beach up to its sources, and can be found strangling willows in most of the riparian areas on Montara Mountain.



Solidago californica:
California Goldenrod

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Flowers: Yellow, tiny, ray flowers in thick, but short spike-like clusters on top of stem.

Blooms: July - October.

Leaves: Dark green to felt gray, hairy on top and bottom. Basal and lower leaves toothed, upper leaves smooth-margined and smaller.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: Widespread - on the edge of field areas throughout the mountain.

Status: Native - Common.

Solidago californica
600x450 JPEG - 44K

Further description & Comment: 1 - 4 ft tall, usually growing in large colonies at all elevations.

This is our native sneeze-maker - when its pollen starts to fly on a windy day, you can see the streams of yellow dust coming from the large colonies of plants.

Photo above shows a typical colony coming into bloom on San Pedro Mountain.

Photo to left is a closeup of the individual flowers, about 1.5 cm each. 600 x450 JPEG - 56K



Wyethia angustifloia:
Narrow-leaved Mule Ears

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

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.

Wyethia angustifloia
600x450 JPEG - 44K

- 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.


Return to Page 6 of Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Continue to Page 8 of Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

  Plant Listings by:

Family & Latin Name

Common Name


Top of Page

Jump Back to Astera Part 1

Jump Back to Astera Part 2

Jump Back to Astera Part 3

Jump Back to Astera Part 4

Jump Back to Astera Part 5