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




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.


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