Did you know that there’s a word for the study of the Asteraceae? It’s synantherology. And, a person who studies the Asteraceae is a synantherologist.
I was going to write a post about the lower orders of classification within the aster family. But it ends up being unusually complicated, with various authors positing sub-families, super-tribes, tribes, sub-tribes, and even sub-genera as ranks between family and species. If you’re really interested, check out the Asteraceae page at the Tree of Life Web Project, or Classification of Compositae from the International Compositae Alliance.
So rather than another detour into taxonomy, here’s a gallery of aster family oddballs: flowers that might not look like composites at first glance.
Maryland Biodiversity Project has only 2 records for this plant, including one in the piedmont, so it’s unlikely you’ll see it in this area. But you’ll see it often in floral arrangements. The yellow-ish centers are the disk florets, and the white outer parts are bracts; there are no ray florets.
This plant is found throughout the Maryland piedmont. White disk florets only, surrounded by green phyllaries. Look at those little seeds!
Carolina elephant’s foot
Found throughout the Maryland piedmont. Click on the image and then zoom in to see the details: this head is showing four individual disk florets, each with a five-lobed corolla. There are no ray florets.
Erechtites hieraciifolius var. hieraciifolius
pilewort; fireweed; burnweed
Found throughout the Maryland piedmont. My apologies for not having a clearer picture. The flower heads contain disk florets only (no ray florets).
(with eastern tailed-blue butterfly)
Found throughout the Maryland piedmont. Disk florets only.
sweet joe-pye weed
(with eastern swallowtail butterfly)
Found in most of the Maryland piedmont. Disk florets only.