Skip to content

All about the daisy family

There are approximately 400 000 species of plants, the exact number is unclear with new plants still being found and some being reassessed in the light of new research.

Throughout history botanists have studied plants to name them, classify them and work out how they are related.  Different methods of classifying plants have been produced from that of Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern botany, who devised a system based on the sexual parts of flowers in the eighteenth century, to the most recent system of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG), which is based on DNA and seeks to examine how plants have evolved and aims to identify the common ancestors of today's plant families.

Plants that are closely related are grouped together into families.

Asteraceae is one of the largest plant families with over 23 000 species and one of the easiest plant families for most people to identify. In short if you see a plant with daisy like flowers it's in the Asteraceae family.  What you may not have realised,however, is this daisy like flower is not just one flower but possibly hundreds of tiny flowers surrounded by a ring petals.  A landing pad for insects and an easy way of making sure as many flowers as possible get pollinated.

The name Asteraceae comes from Aster, the most prominent group of plants in the family that derives from a Greek word meaning star. The second part of the name -aceae is a standard ending for all plant families e.g. Poaceae (grass family), Liliaceae (lily family) and Rosaceae (rose family).

Most members of Asteraceae are herbaceous (top growth dies back to a root system during dormant season - in the UK typically winter and then reshoots the following year), but a significant number especially in Africa and the Americas are also shrubs or trees. The family has a worldwide distribution, from the Polar Regions to the tropics, colonizing a wide variety of habitats.

The Asteraceae are an economically important family, providing products such as cooking oils, lettuce, sunflower seeds, artichokes, and sweetening agents.  In the garden of course, members of the Asteraceae family are very important from weeds like dandelion (originally introduced to the UK and many parts of the world for it edible leaves) and to stars of the summer borders like asters, dahlias, heleniums, marigolds and of course sunflowers.

Asteraceae Bed