Barnadesioideae Bremer & Jansen
Corymbioideae Panero & Funk
Famatinanthoideae S.E. Freire, Ariza & Panero
Gochnatioideae Panero & Funk
Gymnarrhenoideae Panero & Funk
Hecastocleidoideae Panero & Funk
Pertyoideae Panero & Funk
Wunderlichioideae Panero & Funk
Ambrosiaceae Bercht. & J. Presl
Anthemidaceae Bercht. & J. Presl
Arctotidaceae Bercht. & J. Presl
Calendulaceae Bercht. & J. Presl
Carduaceae Bercht. & J. Presl
Cassiniaceae Sch. Bip.
Echinopaceae Bercht. & J. Presl
Eupatoriaceae Bercht. & J. Presl
Inulaceae Bercht. & J. Presl
Senecionaceae Bercht. & J. Presl
Asteraceae or Compositae (commonly referred to as the aster, daisy,
composite, or sunflower family) is a very large and widespread
family of flowering plants (Angiospermae).
The family currently has 32,913 accepted species names, in 1,911
genera (list) and 13 subfamilies. In terms of numbers of species,
Asteraceae are rivaled only by the Orchidaceae. (Which of
the two families is actually larger is unclear, owing to uncertainty
about exactly how many species exist in each family.) Many members
have composite flowers in the form of flower heads (capitula or
pseudanthia) surrounded by involucral bracts. When viewed from a
distance, each capitulum may have the appearance of being a single
flower. The name
Asteraceae comes from the type genus Aster, from the
Greek ἀστήρ, meaning star, and refers to the star-like form of
the inflorescence. Compositae is an older (but still valid) name
which refers to the fact that the family is one of the few angiosperm
families to have composite flowers.
Most members of
Asteraceae are herbaceous, but a significant number
are also shrubs, vines, or trees. The family has a worldwide
distribution, from the polar regions to the tropics, colonizing a wide
variety of habitats. It is most common in the arid and semiarid
regions of subtropical and lower temperate latitudes. The
Asteraceae may represent as much as 10% of autochthonous flora in many
regions of the world.
Asteraceae is an economically important family, providing products
such as cooking oils, lettuce, sunflower seeds, artichokes, sweetening
agents, coffee substitutes and herbal teas. Several genera are of
horticultural importance, including pot marigold, Calendula
officinalis, Echinacea (cone flowers), various daisies, fleabane,
chrysanthemums, dahlias, zinnias, and heleniums.
important in herbal medicine, including Grindelia, yarrow, and many
others. A number of species are considered invasive, including,
most notably in North America, dandelion, which was originally
introduced by European settlers who used the young leaves as a salad
The study of this family is known as synantherology.
1 Etymology and pronunciation
4.1 Roots and stems
4.3.1 Floral heads
4.3.2 Floral structures
4.4 Fruits and seeds
9 See also
11 External links
Etymology and pronunciation
Asteraceae (English: /ˌæstəˈreɪsi, -siˌaɪ, -siˌeɪ,
-siˌiː/) comes to international scientific vocabulary from New
Latin, from Aster, the type genus, + -aceae, a standardized suffix
for plant family names in modern taxonomy. The genus name comes from
Classical Latin word aster, "star", which came from Ancient Greek
ἀστήρ (astḗr), "star".
Compositae (an alternate name) means "composite" and refers to the
characteristic inflorescence, a special type of pseudanthium found in
only a few other angiosperm families.
The vernacular name "daisy", widely applied to members of this family,
is derived from the Old English name of daisy (Bellis perennis):
dægesege, from dæges eage, meaning "day's eye". This is because the
petals open at dawn and close at dusk.
Asteraceae species have a cosmopolitan distribution, and are found
Antarctica and the extreme Arctic. They are
especially numerous in tropical and subtropical regions (notably
Central America, eastern Brazil, the Mediterranean, the Levant part of
the Middle East, southern Africa, central Asia, and southwestern
Compositae, the original name for Asteraceae, were first described in
1792 by the German botanist Paul Dietrich Giseke. Traditionally,
two subfamilies were recognised:
Asteroideae (or Tubuliflorae) and
Cichorioideae (or Liguliflorae). The latter has been shown to be
extensively paraphyletic, and has now been divided into 12
subfamilies, but the former still stands. The phylogenetic tree
presented below is based on Panero & Funk (2002) updated in
2014, and now also includes the monotypic
Famatinanthoideae. The diamond denotes a very poorly
supported node (<50% bootstrap support), the dot a poorly supported
Barnadesioideae: 9 genera, 93 species. South America, mainly the
Famatinanthoideae: South America, 1 genus, 1 species.
Mutisioideae: 58 genera, 750 species. South America.
Stifftioideae: 10 genera. South America.
Wunderlichioideae: 8 genera, 24 species. Mostly in
Gochnatioideae: 4 or 5 genera, 90 species.
Hecastocleidoideae: Only Hecastocleis shockleyi. Southwestern United
Carduoideae: 83 genera, 2,500 species. Worldwide.
Pertyoideae: 5 or 6 genera, 70 species. Asia
Gymnarrhenoideae: Two genera/species,
Gymnarrhena micrantha (Northern
Africa, Middle East) and
Cavea tanguensis (Eastern Himalayas)
Cichorioideae: 224 genera, 3,200 species. Worldwide.
Corymbioideae: Only the genus Corymbium, with 9 species.
Asteroideae: 1,130 genera and 16,200 species. Worldwide.
It is noteworthy that the four subfamilies Asteroideae, Cichorioideae,
Mutisioideae contain 99% of the species diversity of
the whole family (approximately 70%, 14%, 11% and 3% respectively).
Because of the morphological complexity exhibited by this family,
agreeing on generic circumscriptions has often been difficult for
taxonomists. As a result, several of these genera have required
Members of the
Asteraceae are mostly herbaceous plants, but some
shrubs, climbers and trees (such as Lachanodes arborea) do exist. They
are generally easy to distinguish from other plants, mainly because of
their characteristic inflorescence and other shared
characteristics. However, determining genera and species of some
groups such as Hieracium is notoriously difficult (see "damned yellow
composite" for example).
Roots and stems
Members of the
Asteraceae generally produce taproots, but sometimes
they possess fibrous root systems. Stems are herbaceous aerial
branched cylindrical with glandular hairs generally erect but can be
prostrate to ascending. Some species have underground stems in the
form of caudices or rhizomes. These can be fleshy or woody depending
on the species.
The leaves and the stems very often contain secretory canals with
resin or latex (particularly common among the Cichorioideae). The
leaves can be alternate, opposite, or whorled. They may be simple, but
are often deeply lobed or otherwise incised, often conduplicate or
revolute. The margins can be entire or lobed or toothed.
Asteraceae flower head showing the individual flowers
A flower head showing the individual flowers opening from the outside
Chrysanthemum cultivar 'Bridesmaid')
In plants of the family Asteraceae, what appears to be a single flower
is actually a cluster of much smaller flowers. The overall
appearance of the cluster, as a single flower, functions in attracting
pollinators in the same way as the structure of an individual flower
in some other plant families. The older family name, Compositae,
comes from the fact that what appears to be a single flower, is
actually a composite of smaller flowers. The "petals" or "sunrays"
in a sunflower head are actually individual strap-shaped flowers
called "ray flowers", and the "sun disk" is made of smaller circular
shaped individual flowers called "disc flowers". The word "aster"
means "star" in Greek, referring to the appearance of some family
members, as a "star" surrounded by "rays". The cluster of flowers
that may appear to be a single flower, is called a head. The
entire head may move tracking the sun, like a "smart" solar panel,
which maximizes reflectivity of the whole unit and can thereby attract
more pollinators. At the base of the head, and surrounding the
flowers before opening, is a bundle of sepal-like bracts or scales
called phyllaries, which together form the involucre that protects the
individual flowers in the head before opening. The individual
heads have the smaller individual flowers arranged on a round or
dome-like structure called the receptacle. The flowers mature
first at the outside, moving toward the center, with the youngest in
The individual flowers in a head have 5 fused petals (rarely 4), but
instead of sepals, have threadlike, hairy, or bristly structures
called pappus, which surround the fruit and can stick to animal fur or
be lifted by wind, aiding in seed dispersal. The whitish fluffy
head of a dandelion commonly blown on by children, is made of the
pappus, with tiny seeds attached at the ends, whereby the pappus
provides a parachute like structure to help the seed be carried away
in the wind.
Ray floret: A = ovary, B = pappus,
C = anthers, D = ligule, E = style with
Disc floret: A = ovary, B = pappus,
C = anthers, D = style with stigmas
A ray flower is a 3-tipped (3-lobed), strap-shaped, individual flower
in the head of some members of the family Asteraceae.
Sometimes a ray flower is 2-tipped (2-lobed). The corolla of the
ray flower may have 2 tiny teeth opposite the 3-lobed strap, or
tongue, indicating evolution by fusion from an originally 5-part
corolla. Sometimes, the 3:2 arrangement is reversed, with 2 tips
on the tongue, and 0 or 3 tiny teeth opposite the tongue. A
ligulate flower is a 5-tipped, strap-shaped, individual flower in the
heads of other members. A ligule is the strap-shaped tongue of the
corolla of either a ray flower or of a ligulate flower. A disk
flower (or disc flower) is a radially symmetric (i.e., with identical
shaped petals arranged in circle around the center) individual flower
in the head, which is ringed by ray flowers when both are
present. Sometimes ray flowers may be slightly off from radial
symmetry, or weakly bilaterally symmetric, as in the case of desert
pincushions Chaenactis fremontii.
A radiate head has disc flowers surrounded by ray flowers. A
ligulate head has all ligulate flowers. When a sunflower family
flower head has only disc flowers that are sterile, male, or have both
male and female parts, it is a discoid head. Disciform heads have
only disc flowers, but may have two kinds (male flowers and female
flowers) in one head, or may have different heads of two kinds (all
male, or all female). Pistillate heads have all female flowers.
Staminate heads have all male flowers.
Sometimes, but rarely, the head contains only a single flower, or has
a single flowered pistillate (female) head, and a multi-flowered male
staminate (male) head.
Flower diagram of
Carduus (Carduoideae) shows (outermost to
innermost): subtending bract and stem axis; fused calyx; fused
corolla; stamens fused to corolla; gynoecium with two carpels and one
The distinguishing characteristic of
Asteraceae is their
inflorescence, a type of specialised, composite flower head or
pseudanthium, technically called a calathium or capitulum,
that may look superficially like a single flower. The capitulum is a
contracted raceme composed of numerous individual sessile flowers,
called florets, all sharing the same receptacle.
A set of bracts forms an involucre surrounding the base of the
capitulum. These are called "phyllaries", or "involucral bracts". They
may simulate the sepals of the pseudanthium. These are mostly
herbaceous but can also be brightly coloured (e.g. Helichrysum) or
have a scarious (dry and membranous) texture. The phyllaries can be
free or fused, and arranged in one to many rows, overlapping like the
tiles of a roof (imbricate) or not (this variation is important in
identification of tribes and genera).
Each floret may be subtended by a bract, called a "palea" or
"receptacular bract". These bracts are often called "chaff". The
presence or absence of these bracts, their distribution on the
receptacle, and their size and shape are all important diagnostic
characteristics for genera and tribes.
The florets have five petals fused at the base to form a corolla tube
and they may be either actinomorphic or zygomorphic. Disc florets are
usually actinomorphic, with five petal lips on the rim of the corolla
tube. The petal lips may be either very short, or long, in which case
they form deeply lobed petals. The latter is the only kind of floret
in the Carduoideae, while the first kind is more widespread. Ray
florets are always highly zygomorphic and are characterised by the
presence of a ligule, a strap-shaped structure on the edge of the
corolla tube consisting of fused petals. In the
Asteroideae and other
minor subfamilies these are usually borne only on florets at the
circumference of the capitulum and have a 3+2 scheme — above the
fused corolla tube, three very long fused petals form the ligule, with
the other two petals being inconspicuously small. The Cichorioideae
has only ray florets, with a 5+0 scheme — all five petals form the
ligule. A 4+1 scheme is found in the Barnadesioideae. The tip of the
ligule is often divided into teeth, each one representing a petal.
Some marginal florets may have no petals at all (filiform floret).
The calyx of the florets may be absent, but when present is always
modified into a pappus of two or more teeth, scales or bristles and
this is often involved in the dispersion of the seeds. As with the
bracts, the nature of the pappus is an important diagnostic feature.
There are usually five stamens. The filaments are fused to the
corolla, while the anthers are generally connate (syngenesious
anthers), thus forming a sort of tube around the style (theca). They
commonly have basal and/or apical appendages.
Pollen is released
inside the tube and is collected around the growing style, and then,
as the style elongates, is pushed out of the tube (nüdelspritze).
The pistil consists of two connate carpels. The style has two lobes.
Stigmatic tissue may be located in the interior surface or form two
lateral lines. The ovary is inferior and has only one ovule, with
Fruits and seeds
In members of the
Asteraceae the fruit is achene-like, and is called a
cypsela (plural cypselae). Although there are two fused carpels, there
is only one locule, and only one seed per fruit is formed. It may
sometimes be winged or spiny because the pappus, which is derived from
calyx tissue often remains on the fruit (for example in dandelion). In
some species, however, the pappus falls off (for example in
Helianthus). Cypsela morphology is often used to help determine plant
relationships at the genus and species level. The mature seeds
usually have little endosperm or none.
In Asteraceae, the energy store is generally in the form of inulin
rather than starch. They produce iso/chlorogenic acid, sesquiterpene
lactones, pentacyclic triterpene alcohols, various alkaloids,
acetylenes (cyclic, aromatic, with vinyl end groups), tannins. They
have terpenoid essential oils which never contain iridoids.
Assteraceae produce secondary metabolites, such as flavonoids and
terpenoids. Some of these molecules can inhibit protozoan parasites
such as Plasmodium, Trypanosoma,
Leishmania and parasitic intestinal
worms, and thus have potential in medicine.
The oldest known fossils of members of
Asteraceae are pollen grains
from the Late
Cretaceous of Antarctica, dated to ∼76–66 Mya
Campanian to Maastrichtian) and assigned to the extant genus
Dasyphyllum. Barreda, et al. (2015) estimated that the crown group
Asteraceae evolved at least 85.9 Mya (Late Cretaceous, Santonian)
with a stem node age of 88-89 Mya (Late Cretaceous, Coniacian).
It is still unknown whether the precise cause of their great success
was the development of the highly specialised capitulum, their ability
to store energy as fructans (mainly inulin), which is an advantage in
relatively dry zones, or some combination of these and possibly other
Anemochory in Carlina
Asteraceans are especially common in open and dry environments.
Many members of
Asteraceae are pollinated by insects, which explains
their value in attracting beneficial insects, but anemophily is also
present (e.g. Ambrosia, Artemisia). There are many apomictic species
in the family.
Seeds are ordinarily dispersed intact with the fruiting body, the
cypsela. Anemochory (wind dispersal) is common, assisted by a hairy
pappus. Epizoochory is another common method, in which the dispersal
unit, a single cypsela (e.g. Bidens) or entire capitulum (e.g.
Arctium) has hooks, spines or some structure to attach to the fur or
plumage (or even clothes, as in the photo) of an animal just to fall
off later far from its mother plant.
Commercially important plants in
Asteraceae include the food crops
Lactuca sativa (lettuce),
Cynara scolymus (globe
Helianthus annuus (sunflower), Smallanthus sonchifolius
Carthamus tinctorius (safflower) and
(Jerusalem artichoke). Plants are used as herbs and in herbal teas and
other beverages. Chamomile, for example, comes from two different
species: the annual
Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile) and the
Chamaemelum nobile (Roman chamomile).
Calendula (known as
pot marigold) is grown commercially for herbal teas and potpourri.
Echinacea is used as a medicinal tea. The wormwood genus Artemisia
includes absinthe (A. absinthium) and tarragon (A. dracunculus).
Winter tarragon (
Tagetes lucida), is commonly grown and used as a
tarragon substitute in climates where tarragon will not survive.
Many members of the family are grown as ornamental plants for their
flowers, and some are important ornamental crops for the cut flower
industry. Some examples are Chrysanthemum, Gerbera, Calendula,
Dendranthema, Argyranthemum, Dahlia, Tagetes, Zinnia, and many
Many species of this family possess medicinal properties and are used
as traditional antiparasitic medicine. 
Members of the family are also commonly featured in medical and
phytochemical journals because the sesquiterpene lactone compounds
contained within them are an important cause of allergic contact
dermatitis. Allergy to these compounds is the leading cause of
allergic contact dermatitis in florists in the US.
ragweed Ambrosia is among the main causes of so-called hay fever in
the United States.
Asteraceae are also used for some industrial purposes. Marigold
Tagetes patula) is common in commercial poultry feeds and its oil is
extracted for uses in cola and the cigarette industry.
Several members of the family are copious nectar producers and are
useful for evaluating pollinator populations during their
(domestic sunflower), and some species of
Solidago (goldenrod) are
major "honey plants" for beekeepers.
Solidago produces relatively high
protein pollen, which helps honey bees over winter.
Some members of
Asteraceae are economically important as weeds.
Notable in the United States are
Senecio jacobaea (ragwort), Senecio
vulgaris (groundsel), and
Taraxacum (dandelion).
The genera Chrysanthemum, Pulicaria, Tagetes, and
species with useful insecticidal properties.
Parthenium argentatum (guayule) is a source of hypoallergenic
Main article: List of
Terminology for Asteraceae
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Asteraceae.
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Compositae at The
Compositae at The Families of Flowering Plants (DELTA)
Asteraceae at the Encyclopedia of Life
Asteraceae at the
Angiosperm Phylogeny Website
Asteraceae at the Tree of Life Web Project
Asteraceae at the online Flora of North America
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Asteraceae at the online FloraBase—the Western Australian Flora
Compositae at the online Flora of New Zealand
The International Composite Alliance (TICA) A worldwide group of
Compositae in BoDD – Botanical Dermatology Database