Asteraceae, the sunflower family, is a vast plant family. It is the second largest plant family in terms of the number of species it encompasses (stay tuned for a post on Orchidaceae, the largest plant family). Many of the species in Asteraceae are challenging to identify simply because they look so similar to one another. Dandelions, lettuce, artichokes, and yarrow are just a few examples of Asteraceae species.

Arrowleaf balsamroot (see my past post on this species) has mostly passed in the area, but is giving way to Mule’s Ears at some elevations.

Arrowleaf balsamroot on the morning of the summer solstice
Arrowleaf balsamroot on the morning of the summer solstice

 

Mule's Ear Sketch

Fun fact about the Asteraceae? First, picture a common dandelion: all the yellow “petals” on it are not actually petals, but individual florets (small flowers within a larger flower head). Asteraceae members have what are called disc and ray florets–hundreds of individual flowers within the larger flower head. That’s why when a dandelion goes to seed and you see the fluff blowing around, there is a single seed at the base of each bit of fluff. That amazing adaptation is why asters are so widespread.

 

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