In search of flowers in the Northeast

Aster Family: Asteraceae

Daisies, of course! But asters are highly specialized plants – each “flower” is composed of many flowers, usually a ring of sterile ray flowers, each with one large petal on the outside, and many tiny disk flowers on the inside, each with its own tiny petals, stamens, and pistil. Many members of the family have only disk flowers. Each tiny disk flower produces one seed. Think of a sunflower and the disk of seeds that emerges after the petals are gone. Each aster does the same, but usually on a smaller scale. Look closely!

So many examples here that botanists have divided the family into subfamilies and tribes — including chickory, dandelion, thistle, mutisia, boneset, chamomile, marigold, sneezeweed (I’m not making this up), tickseed, and sunflower.

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