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Features of Asteraceae Family

Last updated date: 22nd Mar 2023
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The floral plants are the proof that heaven exists on earth. One of the most beautiful flowering plants with exceptional uses is Asteraceae. This family is also called Compositae and has over 1900 genera along with 32,000 known species. In this family, you will find myriads of trees, shrubs, and herbs. It is also considered one of the largest families of plants in the higher-order. In this article, we will study the botanical features and uses of this vast flowering plant family.


What is Asteraceae?

Asteraceae plants fall in the family Compositae or Asteraceae. It is a wide family comprising many genera and species. The common flowering plants we know falling on this list are asters, daisies, chrysanthemums, dahlias, cosmos, marigolds, etc.

This family also includes ragweed, dandelion, thistle, and other noxious weeds. The other members apart from these flowering plants are lettuce, artichokes, endive, salsify, etc. These are edible species of this family. Some of the flowering plants are also grown as crops such as sunflower and safflower.


Features of Asteraceae

If we look at the Asteraceae family plants list, we will find a distinct flowering arrangement. The flowers are bell-shaped and comprise small flowers known as florets. These compound flowers have leaflets or bracts surrounding the florets. These florets form a bell-shaped disk at the centre. From this centre, the petals come out as rays to form a circular shape.

Some of the species have petals that bend backwards. Some of them only have a disk or ray florets. The sepals of the flowers of the Asteraceae plants are reduced to form a ring of scales, bristles, or hairs. It is cumulatively called pappus. It can be found in the mature fruit these plants produce. The leaves are occasionally compound and generally remain simple in their arrangements. In the stem, they form an alternate opposite arrangement. Sometimes, they are whorled.

As per the paleobotanists, Asteraceae evolved somewhere in South America during the Late Cretaceous Era (approximately 83 million years ago). The fossils date back to Eocene Epoch and show how diversely this family has proliferated.


Features of the Flowers

The outstanding feature of this family is its flowers. The flowers have a distinct set of features that separate this family from the rest. As mentioned earlier, the small florets form an inflorescence that resembles a single flower. It means that the external features of Asteraceae flowers contain a head formed by the conjugation of the smaller florets. The head is then covered outside by modified leaves called bracts.

A corolla is a flat floret that emerges from the head inside the flower. It means that each floret is a smaller flower that forms the head in a group. It means that an inflorescence is the accumulation of over 1000 florets. The head is rather a secondary and complex arrangement called a capitulescence.

Here is a list to summarise the features of this family of flowering plants.

  • The taproots of these plants are modified to form tubers for storing food and water.

  • The stems are erect most of the time. They are woody, prostrate, or hairy. Some of the species contain latex.

  • The structure of the leaves depicts petiolate, radical, and exstipulate features.

  • The flowers are either ligulate or tubular. They can be unisexual or bisexual in nature. They have united anthers and do not contain filaments.

  • The androecium is not present, and gynoecium may or may not be present in the flowers.

  • The seeds are virtually non-endospermic in nature as they reserve food in two cotyledons.


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Economic Importance of Asteraceae

  • Food

This family is an important source of food. The roots and leaves of Helianthus tuberosus and Lactuca sativa are edible. There are other species that are grown as food crops, as the nutritional value of the plant parts is remarkable.

  • Oil

The Asteraceae examples that produce oil are sunflower and safflower. This oil is used for cooking. Many other species produce essential oils that are used for aromatherapy. These essential oils contain derivatives of terpenoids. These oils also contain secondary metabolites such as flavonoids. These molecules have anti-amebic properties and can reduce the infection caused by Leishmania, Trypanosoma, and Plasmodium.

  • Animal Fodder

Another good use of the leftover plants is using them as animal fodder. After the extraction of cooking oil, the cake is used as an excellent nutritional source for the cattle.

  • Medicinal Values

Most of the species belonging to the Asteraceae family have medicinal values. For example, Artemisia is used for bowel disorders as it produces santonin. This compound has a cooling effect and provides relief in digestive issues and other bowel disorders.

Some of the species are used to provide relief in asthma. The plant extracts can also be used for curing bleeding piles and cough. These compounds can also act as stimulants and appetisers, helping people to maintain a proper diet.

  • Ornamental Purposes

The flowers are widely used for ornamental purposes. The venues of the occasions are decorated using these flowers. This is why the species producing extraordinary flowers with brilliant colour combinations are grown as ornamental crops. Alyssum, Hesperis, Iberis, etc., are used for such requirements.


Conclusion

This is all you need to know about the botanical features and uses of Asteraceae. Understand the Asteraceae characteristics and determine the difference of this family with the rest of the higher-order flowering plants. Check out the names of the plants in the Asteraceae family PDF and understand the features of these plants described.

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FAQs on Asteraceae

1. Why do Asteraceae plants have tubers?

The taproots of these plants form tubers in order to act as a storage organ underneath the soil. This type of root helps in storing food and water for the perennial plants and to survive harsh climatic conditions.

2. What is inflorescence?

It is a distinct form of a complete floral head that includes a stem, stalk, smaller flowers or florets, and bracts. An inflorescence can be identified following the features and arrangement of florets on a main axis or peduncle.


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