Asteraceae, also known as Daisy family, contains thousands of species of plants. Commonly referred to as the Aster family or Sunflower family, Asteraceae includes herbs, shrubs, and some trees, all of which produce flowers. Asteraceae is also sometimes called the Composite family. It is relatively easy to recognize plants in this family due to their clustered flowers with petals sitting directly on the flower heads. This type of flower head is called an involucrate head.
Characteristics and Examples
Flowers in the Daisy family contain heads, also referred to as capitulum, from which the flower petals extend in a ray or disk pattern. They also have alternate or whorled leaves, and the flowers may be bisexual or unisexual. Plants in this family grow all over the world, although they aren't common in tropical rain forests. Most Asteraceae plants are shrubs or herbs, although some are trees. Besides daisies, the Asteraceae family includes Chrysanthemums, sunflowers, Asters, dandelions, thistles, Dahlias, Zinnias, Cosmos, Common Burdock, artichoke and strawflowers, among other flower types.
The more than 180 species of Asters come in a wide variety of colors, including purple, pink, white, red, blue, and pink. Most of them have yellow centers. Asters range in height from 6 inches to 6 feet (15 cm to 1.8 m), and different varieties grow in different climates.
Sunflowers (Helianthus) are one of the most popular flowering plants in the Daisy Family. Most varieties of Sunflowers grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. People eat the roasted seeds. The plants are also grown to add some color and drama to the garden. Native Americans used Sunflowers for medicinal purposes, such as kidney treatment. Sunflowers attract birds and grow best in areas with full sunlight. They make excellent cut flowers and range in size from 2 to 10 feet (60 cm to 3 m) tall.
Chrysanthemums generally grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, although different species have slightly different temperature tolerances. Chrysanthemums can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, although most grow as smaller bushes. They add a great deal of color to the garden, can be grown in pots, and work well as cut flowers. Chrysanthemums prefer lots of sunlight and well-drained soil.