A Few Statistics, Illustrated

Depending on when you look it up, and the current state of research, and the seeming whim of taxonomists, the Asteraceae is the largest plant family on Earth, with 23,000 species (more or less).  Only the orchid family is as large, or larger, maybe.  Species in the Asteraceae can be found in almost every habitat, on every continent except Antarctica.

20140518-DSC_0092 Erigeron philadelphicus (common fleabane)





In the Potomac Gorge area, I’ve found more plants in the Asteraceae than any other family, by far: seventy species. That’s out of a total of 351, or just shy of 1 in 5.  This includes the asters themselves, the beggar-ticks, bonesets, coneflowers, coreopsis, dandelions, elephant’s foot, everlasting, the various fleabanes, the multitudes of goldenrods, leafcup, hawkweeds, horseweeds, ironweed, fireweed, rattlesnake weed and ragweed and ragwort, pussytoes, snakeroots and sneezeweed, sunflowers and thistles, and wingstem. And some aliens I didn’t bother to name.


The second largest family, at 21 species (13 native, 8 alien), was the Fabaceae (pea family).

Lespedeza virginica (slender bush-clover)







In third place was the Lamiaceae (mint family) at 16 (11 native, 5 alien).

Scutellaria elliptica (hairy skullcap)






lyre-leaved rock-cress

Brassicaeae (mustard family) checked in at 15 (7 and 8).

 Arabis lyrata (lyre-leaved rock cress)




rue anemone duo


Ranunculaceae (buttercup family) had 14 (10 and 4).

Thalictrum thalictroides (rue-anemone)



swamp dewberry


The Rosaceae (rose family) had 12 (9 and 3).

Rubus hispidus (swamp dewberry)



sweet cicely closeup 2


And the Apiaceae had 10 (6 and 4).

Osmorhiza longistylis (aniseroot)





And though the Orchidaceae is so large worldwide, in this area I found only two. More on that tomorrow.

Tipularia discolor (cranefly orchid)




Here’s a nice tutorial on the Asteraceae.

Flower of the Day: Southern Agrimony

aka harvestlice, aka swamp agrimony (Agrimonia parviflora); Rosaceae (rose family)


I know, I know, you were expecting a picture of a flower.  This species of agrimony has small yellow flowers, about 1/4″ wide at most, that are very typical of the rose family. It’s another example of medium-sized plants with long, spiky inflorescences and itty bitty flowers (like vervain, jumpseed, lopseed).

I like this plant for the sound of the name, which comes from the Greek for “poppy”. But really, it’s about the leaf.  Is that not a fascinating leaf?  Shown above is a single, pinnately compound leaf, with 17 primary leaflets and about 30 secondary leaflets.  Nevermind about the flowers, I just love the plant:

20140807-DSC_0090  Okay, here are some flower pics:

20140806-DSC_0126This one is actually a different species: common agrimony (A. gryposepala).  Leaf is not nearly as nifty: 20140721-DSC_0484 Southern agrimony flowers are similar to common agrimony flowers: