Asteraceae part 1

Yarrow and Ragwort are 2 different members of the large ‘Aster’ family – All images are with thanks from Matt Summers

Today and in several future posts I will be talking about members of the Asteraceae. This was called the Compositae for a very long time, which I think is a lot more descriptive about this largest dicotyledon family on Earth!

The first post is all about the classification which is extensive but makes good sense you will discover on the next page! Individual species are not always mentioned and only natives or archyophytes are listed here.

More species will be listed in post 4, 5, 6 below as well as their known uses:

  1. The Dandelion
  2. Asteraceae (part 1) (This post!)
  3. About the Common Ragwort or Jacobaea vulgaris
  4. More science behind the Asteraceae! (part 2)
  5. the more common Asteraceae and their uses (part 3)
  6. the less common members (part 4)


General information

1) Subfamily Carduoideae

Tribe 1: Cynareae

The flowers are rarely yellow, usually red to blue. Mostly thistles or very thistle-like.

2) Subfamily Cichorioideae

Tribe 2: the Cichorieae

Plants often produce the white latex, the flowers are usually yellow.

Tribe 3: the Arctotideae

with 2 genera but both are not native

3) Subfamily Asteroideae

The Third Subfamily is the largest one in this family and called Asteroideae, it has 13 tribes and 66 genera! But many are ornamental plants or garden escapes.

Tribe 4: the Gnaphalieae 

Tribe 5: Inuleae Tribe6: the Astereae    Tribe 7: Anthemideae Tribe 8: the Senecioneae Tribe 9: the Calenduleae  Tribe 10: Heliantheae  Tribe 11: Millerieae Tribe 12: Coreopsideae  Tribe 13: Tageteae  Tribe 14: Bahieae Tribe 15: Helenieae  Tribe 16: Eupatorieae 

General information

Although many are not directly useful for us humans, most of the flowers of this family are extremely good pollen and nectar providers for insects, seeds for birds and leaves for various larvae and small mammals.

It has a lot of edible and medicinal uses. I’ve only just recently acquired a little recipe book called ‘Cooking Weeds’ by Vivien Weise(Prospect Books) which has lots of lovely recipes and several are with members of this family namely the Dandelion, Daisy, Nipplewort, Ox-eye Daisy, Smooth Sow Thistle and Yarrow. 

I am grateful for all your information to share for more people to read and learn! My aim of the wonderful weed blog is to highlight those native plants which have a connection mainly with us people and all their known ‘uses’ from the past to the present day!

To find the correct plant in this family, Stace compiled several keys whereby the capitulum should be dissected to identify all its component parts.

The family is also split into 3 subfamilies, 16 tribes and 104 genera.

Here we go:

1) Subfamily Carduoideae

  • The first subfamily is Carduoideae and are distinctive in that they do not produce any white latex when cut, are often spiny and the leaves are spirally arranged along the stems. The flowers are rarely yellow, usually red to blue. Mostly thistles or very thistle-like. It only has one tribe.

Tribe 1: Cynareae has 13 genera/species

  1. Echinops spp or Globe-thistles (all Intr-natd and grown in gardens)
  2. Carlina vulgaris or Carline thistle and here
  3. Arctium spp. or Burdocks with 3 species
  4. Saussurea alpina or Alpine Saw-wort
  5.  Carduus spp. or Thistles with 5 species
  6. Cirsium spp. or Thistles with 10 species
  7. Onopordum acanthium or Cotton thistle (arch.) and 1 Intrd-natd species
  8. Cynara sp. + var. or globe Artichoke and Cardoon Intrd-surv.
  9. Acroptilon repens or Russian Knapweed (Intrd-natd)
  10. Silybum marianum or Milk thistle (arch.) 
  11. Serratula tinctoria or Saw-wort;
  12. Centaurea spp. or Knapweeds with few natives, several introduced or Arch. For uses of Common Knapweed by R. Harford see here. (with 14 sps in B.I.)
  13. Carthamus spp. or Safflower (2 spp both Intrd-casual)

2) Subfamily Cichorioideae

  • The second Subfamily is the Cichorioideae which has 2 tribes and 25 genera. Plants often produce the white latex, the flowers are bisexual and usually yellow. It is rather a speciality to be able to identify those different yellow daisies! It is also often clear that they are similar looking by being given the same common names for different scientifically named genera.

Tribe 2: the Cichorieae has the following 23 genera and/or species: 

  1. Scolymus hispanicus or Golden Thistle (Intrd-casual)
  2. Cichorium intybus or Chicory (Arch), 
  3. Catananche caerulea or Blue Cupidone (Intrd-natd)
  4. Arnoseris minima or Lamb’s Succory, (Arch)
  5. Hedypnois cretica or Scaly Hawkbit (Intrd-casual)
  6. Lapsana communis or Nipplewort
  7. Hypochaeris spp.or Cat’s-ears with 3 spp.
  8. Scorzoneroides autumnalis or Autumn Hawkbit;
  9.  Leontodon spp. or Hawkbits; 2 spp.
  10. Picris hieracioides + 4 ssp. or Hawkweed Oxtongue;
  11. Helminthotheca echioides or Bristly Oxtongue;
  12. Scorzonera humilis or Viper’s-grass
  13. Tragopogon pratensis or Goat’s-beard and also T. porrifolius or Salsify, which is the non-native root vegetable. (Intrd-natd)
  14. Geropogon glaber or Slender Salsify (Intrd-casual)
  15. Aetheorhiza bulbosa or Tuberous Hawk’s-beard (Intrd-surv)
  16. Sonchus spp. or Sowthistles; 4 spp.
  17. Lactuca spp. or Lettuces with 5 spp:  2 native; 1 Arch; 2 Intrd.
  18. Cicerbita spp or Blue-sowthistle with 1 native and 3 Intrd-natd
  19. Mycelis muralis or Wall Lettuce,
  20. Taraxacum agg. or Dandelions, which were covered by me in an earlier blog and has 9 different sections in Stace.
  21.  Crepis spp. or Hawk’s-beards with 10 spp: 5 native and 5 Intrd or Arch.
  22. Pilosella spp. or Mouse-ear-hawkweeds and the interesting Pilosella aurantiacum or Fox and Cubs . With 7 spp. with 3 native and 4 Intrd spp.
  23. Hieracium spp. or Hawkweeds. Hawkweeds are considered one of the trickiest groups of plants in Britain and Ireland and just a new (third) handbook has been published by the Botanical Society of the British Isles BSBI in aid to provide identification for this complicated genus! Has 15 sections in Stace.

Tribe 3: the Arctotideae with 2 genera but both are not native. The Gazanias are a well known ornamental, bedding plant from South Africa.

  1. Arctotheca calendula or Plain Treasureflower (Intrd-casual)
  2. Gazania rigens or Treasureflower

3) Subfamily Asteroideae

  • The Third Subfamily is the largest one in this family and called Asteroideae, it has 13 tribes and 66 genera! But many are ornamental plants or garden escapes.

Tribe 4: the Gnaphalieae with 6 genera:

  1. Filago spp. or Cudweeds (e.g. Filago vulgaris or Common Cudweed) with 5 spp: 3 native and 2 Arch.
  2. Antennaria dioica or Mountain Everlasting
  3. Anaphalis margaritacea or Pearly Everlasting
  4. Gnaphalium spp. or Cudweeds. Here we can see how confusing common names are with Cudweed representing several different genera! (7 spp with 5 native, 2 Intrd-nat)
  5. Helichrysum spp or Everlastingflowers (3 spp. Intrd-natd)
  6. Plecostachys sepyllifolia or Cape Everlastingflower (Intrd-natd)

Tribe 5: Inuleae with 4 genera:

  1. Inula spp.: 6 species; 3 native; 1 Arch. and 2 Intrd-natd
  2. Dittrichia spp. or Fleabanes: 2 Intrd-natd species
  3. Pulicaria spp. 2 species both native. 
  4. Telekia speciosa or Yellow Oxeye (Intrd-natd)

Tribe 6: the Astereae with 11 genera:

  1. Grindelia stricta or Coastal Gumplant
  2. Calotis cuneifolia or Bur Daisy
  3. Solidago spp or Goldenrods (an article all about growing and caring for Goldenrods can be found here);
  4. Aster‘ spp. (many have been renamed into other genera) is mostly introduced and has many ornamental varieties (garden escapes): 11 species but it has 2 native species;
  5. Chrysocoma spp. or Shrub Goldilocks with 2 Intrd-natd
  6. Erigeron spp. or Fleabanes with 6 spp + 2 native, 4 Intrd-natd 
  7. Conyza spp. or Fleabanes with 4 Intrd-natd spp 
  8. Callistephus chinensis or China Aster
  9. Olearia spp or Daisy-bushes with 5 Intrd-natd species mainly originating from New Zealand
  10. Baccharis halimifolia or Tree Groundsel from N. America
  11. Bellis perennis or Daisy.

Tribe 7: Anthemideae with 14 genera: 

  1. Tanacetum spp. or Tansies with 4 spp.; 2 Arch and 2 Intrd-natd
  2. Artemisia spp. or Mugworts with 11 spp.; only 2 natives, others Arch. or Intrd.
  3. Santolina chamaecyparissus or Lavender-cotton: Intrd-natd.
  4.  Achillea spp. or Yarrows with 6 spp; 3 native and 3 Intrd
  5.  Chamaemelum nobile or Chamomile,
  6.  Anthemis spp. or Chamomiles with 5 spp.; 2 Arch and 3 Intrd-natd
  7. Glebionis segetum or Corn Marigold (Arch.) and G. coronaria or Crown Daisy (Intrd-casual)
  8. Mauranthemum paludosum or Annual Marguarite: Intrd-casual
  9. Leucanthemella serotina or Autumn Oxeye: Intrd-natd.
  10. Leucanthemum vulgare or Oxeye Daisy and L. x superbum or Shasta Daisy; Intrd-natd
  11. Matricaria chamomilla or Scented Mayweed (Arch) and M. discoidea + 2 ssp. or Pineappleweed (Intrd-natd) see also in this Wildfood blog,
  12. Tripleurospermum spp. or Mayweeds: T. maritimum or Sea Mayweed (+ 3 ssp) and T. inodorum or Scentless Mayweed (Arch)
  13. Cotula spp. or Buttonweeds with 4 Intrd-natd spp.
  14. Soliva pterosperma or Jo-jo-weed Intrd-natd

Tribe 8: the Senecioneae with 11 genera:

  1. Senecio spp. and Jacobaea spp. or Ragworts with 21 spp. and many crosses + ssp: only 8 native and the remaining intrd-natd.
  2. Pericallis hybrida or Cineraria: intrd-natd on Scilly Isles.
  3. Delairea odorata or German-ivy: intrd-natd on Scilly Isles and in Cornwall
  4. Tephroseris spp. or Fleaworts: 2 ssp. Tephroseris integrifolia subsp. maritima, also known as the Spathulate fleawort or South Stack fleawort, is endemic to Holyhead Island, occurring only around South Stack. T. palustris or Marsh Fleawort
  5. Brachyglottis spp. or Ragworts with 3 intrd-natd
  6. Sinacalia tangutica or Chinese Ragwort; intrd-natd
  7. Ligularia spp. or Leopardplants with 2 spp intrd-natd
  8. Doronicum spp. or Leopard’s-banes with 5 spp intrd-natd
  9. Tussilago farfara or Colt’s-foot,
  10. Petasites spp.with 4 spp and 1 native: P. hybridus or Butterbur.
  11. Homogyne alpina or Purple Colt’s-foot (Intrd-natd)

Tribe 9: the Calenduleae with 2 ornamental genera:

Tribe 10: Heliantheae with 5 genera all introduced weeds or ornamentals!

  1. Ambrosia spp. or Ragweeds with 3 spp. intrd.
  2. Iva xanthiifolia or Marsh-elder semi-natd
  3. Xanthium spp. or Cockleburs with 3 intrd-casual spp.
  4. Rudbeckia spp. or Coneflowers with 2 spp both intrd.
  5. Helianthus spp. or Sunflowers with 5 intrd.

Tribe 11: Millerieae with 3 genera and one common introduced weed:

  1. Guizottia abyssinica or Niger; intrd-casual
  2. Sigesbeckia spp. or St. Paul’s-worts; 2 spp both intrd.
  3. Galinsoga spp. or Gallant-soldiers; 2 spp both intrd.

Tribe 12: Coreopsideae with 4 genera: 

  1. Bidens spp. or Bur-marigolds.* with 7 spp and 2 natives
  2. Coreopsis grandiflora or Large-flowered Tickseed (Intrd-natd)
  3. Cosmos bipinnatus or Mexican Aster; intrd-natd
  4. Dahlia x hortensis or Dahlia; intrd-casual

  • Please note: Bidens frondosa or Devil’s Beggarticks (one of the many names!) is the latest invasive weed apparently and very similar looking to B. tripartita so may have misidentified the plants in pictures! Also see Naturespot blog, which also refers to Stace for clear identification of the 2 species.

Tribe 13: Tageteae has got one ornamental genus Tagetes or Marigolds.

Tribe 14: Bahieae with one introduced genus Schkuhria pinnata or Dwarf Marigold.

Tribe 15: Helenieae with 2 ornamental genera: Gaillardia x grandiflora or Blanketflower and Helenium autumnale or Sneezewort


Tribe 16: Eupatorieae with 2 genera: 

The last 2 pictures show a close up of Eupatorium cannabinum with Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly and the plant in its typical marshy habitat!

The following posts are all about the Asteraceae:

  1. The Dandelion
  2. Asteraceae (part 1) (= this post!)
  3. About the Common Ragwort or Jacobaea vulgaris
  4. More science behind the Asteraceae! (part 2)
  5. the more common Asteraceae and their uses (part 3)
  6. the less common members (part 4)

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