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Asteraceae / Asteroideae
The Aster Subfamily of the Aster Family

      The Aster subfamily consists of numerous tribes, some with species radically different from others in the subfamily. Note that thistles and artichokes were reclassified from a tribe to a separate subfamily of their own.

      The Chamomile tribe includes the most aromatic members of the Aster family, such as sagebrush, yarrow, tansy, and of course, chamomile. As a kid I encountered many different species of sage (Artemisia). There are 19 species just in Montana. But without a patterns approach to go by, I didn't have a clue where to start, so I brought each specimen to the university herbarium for identification. These days, when I see a new fuzzy green-gray plant, I immediately crush a leaf and smell it to test for a sage-type smell. Each species smells different, but there is a common pattern to the smell that is undeniably sage-like.

      I also test for members of the Sunflower tribe by smell. Most species are resinous, much like pines, useful medicinally for their expectorant properties. Crush up the head of a sunflower and smell it to get a sense of the resin odor. Once you learn the patterns of smell from the various families, subfamilies and tribes, you will be able to accurately identify many new plants with just your nose.

Please e-mail Thomas J. Elpel to report mistakes or to inquire about purchasing high resolution photos of these plants.

Tribes of the Aster Subfamily
Everlasting | Chamomile | Boneset | Groundsel | Sunflower | Sneezeweed | Aster
Note that the ragweeds were once a tribe of their own, but are now considered part of the Sunflower tribe.


Everlasting Tribe
Notice how the flowerheads of each plant are wrapped in layers of colorful, papery bracts.

Antennaria sp. Pussytoes.

Antennaria sp. Pussytoes.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West
Anaphalis margaritacea. Pearly Everlasting.

Anaphalis margaritacea. Pearly Everlasting.

Anaphalis margaritacea. Pearly Everlasting.

Anaphalis margaritacea. Pearly Everlasting.


Chamomile Tribe
Most plants of this tribe are powerfully aromatic.

Artemisia tridentata. Big Sagebrush.

Artemisia tridentata. Big Sagebrush.

Artemisia tridentata. Big Sagebrush.

Artemisia tridentata. Big Sagebrush.

Artemisia tridentata. Big Sagebrush.

Artemisia tridentata. Big Sagebrush.

Artemisia frigida. Fringed Sagewort.

Artemisia frigida. Fringed Sagewort.

Artemisia cana. Silver Sagebrush.

Artemisia cana. Silver Sagebrush.

Tanacetum vulgare. Common Tansy.

Tanacetum vulgare. Common Tansy. Tansy is an imported invasive weed from Eurasia. For more information go to Tansy ecology and control..

Matricaria matricarioides. Pineapple Weed.

Matricaria matricarioides. Pineapple Weed

Matricaria maritima. Scentless Chamomile.

Matricaria maritima. Scentless Chamomile. Rexburg, Idaho.

Achillea millefolium. Yarrow.

Achillea millefolium. Yarrow.

Achillea millefolium. Yarrow.

Achillea millefolium. Yarrow.

Achillea millefolium. Yarrow. The flowers are sometimes slightly pink

Achillea millefolium. Yarrow.

Achillea millefolium. Yarrow roots.

Achillea millefolium. Yarrow. The young, pink roots numb the tip of the tongue when chewed.

Leucanthemum vulgare or Chrysanthemum leucanthemum. Oxeye Daisy.

Leucanthemum vulgare. (Same as Chrysanthemum leucanthemum.) Oxeye Daisy. Oxeye Daisy is an imported invasive weed from Eurasia. For more information go to Oxeye Daisy ecology and control..

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West


Boneset Tribe

Brickellia eupatorioides. False boneset.

Brickellia eupatorioides.False boneset.

Brickellia eupatorioides. False boneset.

Brickellia eupatorioides. False boneset. Close-up.

Liatris punctata. Dotted Gayfeather.

Liatris punctata. Dotted Gayfeather.

Liatris punctata. Dotted Gayfeather.

Liatris punctata. Dotted Gayfeather. Close-up.


Groundsel Tribe
These members of the Aster Family are distinguished by the especially soft and abundant pappus hairs within the flowerheads. Arnica was traditionally classified as a member of the Groundsel tribe, but it has been reclassified as part of the Sunflower tribe based on genetic evidence.

Petasites frigidus. Arctic Sweet Coltsfoot.

Petasites frigidus. Arctic Sweet Coltsfoot.

Petasites frigidus. Arctic Sweet Coltsfoot.

Petasites frigidus. Arctic Sweet Coltsfoot. Photographed near Twisp, Washington.

Senecio sp. Groundsel.

Senecio sp. Groundsel

Senecio sp. Groundsel.

Senecio sp. Groundsel.

Senecio triangularis. Arrow-leaved Groundsel.

Senecio triangularis. Arrow-leaved Groundsel.

Senecio triangularis. Groundsel

Senecio triangularis. Groundsel with moth, used with permission of Mountain Escapes Photography

-Also see these additional members of the Groundsel Tribe-

  • Senecio sp. Groundsel. Photographed along the northern California coast.
  • Senecio sp. Groundsel. Chatfield State Park. Denver, Colorado.
  • Senecio salignus. Willow Groundsel. Flowers give off a rotting smell to attract flies for pollination. Sonora Desert Museum. Tuscon, Arizona.
  • Senecio salignus. Willow Groundsel. Close-up.

Sunflower Tribe
Many plants of the Sunflower Tribe have a distinctively resinous odor. Arnica is an exception. It was traditionally classified as a member of the Groundsel tribe, but it has been reclassified as part of the Sunflower tribe based on genetic evidence.

Arnica cordifolia. Heart Leaved Arnica.

Arnica cordifolia. Heart-Leaved Arnica.

Arnica angustifolia. Alpine Arnica.

Arnica angustifolia. Alpine Arnica.

Balsamorhiza sagittata. Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

Balsamorhiza sagittata. Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

Balsamorhiza sagittata. Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

Balsamorhiza sagittata. Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

Balsamorhiza hookeri. Hooker's Balsamroot.

Balsamorhiza hookeri. Hooker's Balsamroot.

Balsamorhiza hookeri. Hooker's Balsamroot.

Balsamorhiza hookeri. Hooker's Balsamroot.

Helianthus annuus. Wild Sunflower.

Helianthus annuus. Wild Sunflower.

Helianthus tuberosus. Jerusalem artichoke.

Helianthus tuberosus. Jerusalem artichoke. Cultivated in our yard.

Helianthus nuttallii. Nuttall's Sunflower.

Helianthus nuttallii. Nuttall's Sunflower.

Helianthus nuttallii. Nuttall's Sunflower.

Helianthus nuttallii. Nuttall's Sunflower. Perennial.

Ratibida columnifera. Prairie Coneflower.

Ratibida columnifera. Prairie Coneflower.

Ratibida columnifera. Prairie Coneflower.

Ratibida columnifera. Prairie Coneflower.

Rudbeckia occidentalis. Western Rayless Coneflower.

Rudbeckia occidentalis. Western Rayless Coneflower. Photographed in the Bridger Mountains, near Bozeman, Montana.

Rudbeckia occidentalis. Western Rayless Coneflower.

Rudbeckia occidentalis. Western Rayless Coneflower.

Rudbeckia hirta. Blackeyed Susan.

Rudbeckia hirta. Blackeyed Susan.

Rudbeckia laciniata. Cutleaf Coneflower.

Rudbeckia laciniata. Cutleaf Coneflower.

Madia gracilis. Slender Tarweed.

Madia gracilis. Slender Tarweed. Photographed near Twisp, Washington.

Madia gracilis. Slender Tarweed.

Madia gracilis. Slender Tarweed. Photographed near Kettle Falls, Washington.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West
Enceliopsis argophylla. Silverleaf Sunray.

Enceliopsis argophylla. Silverleaf Sunray. Photographed at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Echinacea angustifolia. Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower.

Echinacea angustifolia. Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower.

Coreopsis tinctoria. Golden Tickseed.

Coreopsis tinctoria. Golden Tickseed. Planted as a roadside flower near Boulder, Montana.

Wyethia helianthoides. Mule's Ears.

Wyethia helianthoides. Mule's Ears.

Wyethia helianthoides. Mule's Ears.

Wyethia helianthoides. Mule's Ears.

Wyethia amplexicaulis. Mule's Ears.

Wyethia amplexicaulis. Mule's Ears.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West
Bidens cernua. Nodding Beggartick.

Bidens cernua. Nodding Beggartick.

Bidens tripartita. Threelobe Beggarticks.

Bidens tripartita. Threelobe Beggarticks.

Ragweeds
(Now included within the Sunflower Tribe)
These are green-globby flowers that might resemble the Goosefoot family at first glance.

Iva xanthifolia. Giant sumpweed.

Iva xanthifolia. Giant sumpweed. It is often found growing in or around livestock pens.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West
Xanthium strumarium. Cocklebur.

Xanthium strumarium. Cocklebur. Grows along many western rivers.

Xanthium strumarium. Cocklebur.

Xanthium strumarium. Cocklebur. The burrs cling to clothing, fur, and bare feet.

-Also see these additional members of the Sunflower Tribe-

  • Rudbeckia laciniata. Cut-leaf Coneflower. Photographed along Montana's Smith River.
  • Encelia farinosa. Brittlebush. Sonora Desert Museum. Tuscon, Arizona.
  • Encelia farinosa. Brittlebush. Close-up. The fragrant resin is used as an incense and for glue and waterproofing. The sap doesn't melt in the sun.

Sneezeweed Tribe

Gaillardia aristata. Blanket flower.

Gaillardia aristata. Blanket flower.

Gaillardia aristata. Blanket flower.

Gaillardia aristata. Blanket flower.

Chaenactis alpina. Alpine Dusty Maiden.

Chaenactis alpina. Alpine Dusty Maiden.

Tetraneuris grandiflora (Formerly Hymenoxys grandiflora). Alpine Sunflower.

Tetraneuris grandiflora. (Formerly known as Hymenoxys grandiflora.) Alpine Sunflower.

Helenium autumnale. Common Sneezeweed.

Helenium autumnale. Common Sneezeweed.

Helenium autumnale. Common Sneezeweed.

Helenium autumnale. Common Sneezeweed.


Aster Tribe

Solidago sp. Golden Rod.

Solidago sp. Golden Rod. Lava Lake Trail. Near Bozeman, Montana.

Solidago sp. Golden Rod.

Solidago sp. Golden Rod. Near Glacier National Park. Montana.

Heterotheca villosa (Formerly Chrysopsis villosa). Golden Aster.

Heterotheca villosa. (Formerly known as Chrysopsis villosa.) Golden Aster.

Heterotheca villosa (Formerly Chrysopsis villosa). Golden Aster.

Heterotheca villosa. (Formerly known as Chrysopsis villosa.) Golden Aster.

Grindelia squarrosa. Sticky Gum Plant.

Grindelia squarrosa. Sticky Gum Plant. Common across the Rocky Mountains.

Grindelia squarrosa. Sticky Gum Plant.

Grindelia squarrosa. Sticky Gum Plant. Photographed near Rexburg, Idaho.

Aster sp. Asters.

Aster sp. Asters.

Aster sp. Asters.

Aster sp. Alpine Aster.

Conyza canadensis. Canadian Horseweed.

Conyza canadensis. Canadian Horseweed.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West

-Also see these additional members of the Aster Tribe-

Return to the Aster Family


Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Identify plants with
Botany in a Day
Foraging the Mountain West
Start feasting with
Foraging the Mountain West

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Books
authored by
Thomas J. Elpel
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, andthe Blossoming of Human Spirit
Roadmap
to Reality
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Living
Homes
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
Participating
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids
Shanleya's
Quest

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