Asteraceae

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

Asteraceae or Compositae (commonly referred to as the aster, daisy, or sunflower family), are an exceedingly large and widespread family of Angiospermae.[1] [2] The group has more than 23.000 currently accepted species, spread across 1620 genera and 12 subfamilies. In terms of numbers of species, Asteraceae is rivaled only by Orchidaceae.[1][3] (Which of the two families is actually larger is unclear, owing to uncertainty about exactly how many species exist in each family). The main feature of the family is the composite flower type in the form of capitula surrounded by involucral bracts.The name "Asteraceae" comes from Aster, the most prominent generum in the family, that derives from the Greek ἀστήρ meaning star, and is connected with its inflorescence star form. As for the term "Compositae", more ancient but still valid, it obviously makes reference to the fact that the family is one of the few angiosperms that have composite flowers.[4] This family has a remarkable ecological and economical importance, and is present from the polar regions to the tropics, colonizing all available habitats. The Asteraceae may represent as much as 10% of autochthon flora in many regions of the world. The largest composite genera are Senecio (1,000 species), Vernonia (1,000 species), Centaurea (700 species), Cousinia (600 species), Helichrysum (550 species), and Artemesia (550 species).[1]

Most members of Asteraceae are herbaceous, but a significant number are also shrubs, vines and trees. The family has a worldwide distribution, and is most common in the arid and semi-arid regions of subtropical and lower temperate latitudes.[5]

Asteraceae is an economically important family. Some members provide products including cooking oils, lettuce, sunflower seeds, artichokes, sweetening agents, coffee substitutes and teas. Several genera are popular with the horticultural community, including marigold, pot marigold (calendula), cone flowers, various daisies, fleabane Erigeron, chrysanthemums, dahlias, zinnias, and heleniums. Asteraceae are important in herbal medicine, including Grindelia, Echinaceae, yarrow Achillea and many others.[6] A number of species have become weeds, including most famously in North America, dandelion Taraxacum officinale.[7]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Stevens, P. F. (2001 onwards) Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 9, June 2008 http://www.mobot.org/mobot/research/apweb/welcome.html
  2. Jeffrey, C. 2007. Compositae: Introduction with key to tribes. Pages 61-87 in Families and Genera of Vascular Plants, vol. VIII, Flowering Plants, Eudicots, Asterales (J. W. Kadereit and C. Jeffrey, eds.). Springer-Verlag, Berlin
  3. Panero, J.L., Crozier, B.S. Tree of Life - Asteraceae http://tolweb.org/Asteraceae/20780
  4. International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. In point 18/5 states: "The folowing names, used traditionaly, are considered valid: Compositae (Asteraceae...).
  5. Barkely, T.M., Brouillet, L., Strother, J.L. (2006) Flora of North America - Asteraceae" http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=10074
  6. Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases
  7. Invasive.org, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia, Tifton, Georgia USA.



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