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Aster Family

Melanthera nivea (L.) Small, an herb in the Asteraceae. Note the characteristic structure of the inflorescences. Una hierba. Note la estructura característica de las inflorescencias.

Description: One of the most vegetatively diverse families, the Asteraceae are impossible to characterize easily. Asteraceae can be either simple- or compound-leaved, opposite or alternate. The leaf margins are frequently serrate or dentate, but they can be entire. Some genera can be identified by a vegetative odor, either sweet like sunflower leaves or rather sharp and unpleasant like some temperate species of Hieracium. Some genera lack an odor, though. They are united by floral morphology, having a highly derived inflorescence structure consisting of a closely packed cluster of small flowers (disk florets) and usually some flowers with very large bracts (ray florets) at the edge of the flower head— basically, like a daisy. The majority of Asteraceae at La Selva are herbaceous, but there are a number of important genera of woody plants: the large canopy liana Piptocarpha poeppigiana, and several genera of shrubs or small trees.

Economic uses: Some species are grown as ornamentals.

Descripción: Una familia con formas vegetativas muy variadas. Por eso es muy difícil de determinar fácilmente sin flores. Las Asteraceas pueden tener hojas simples o compuestas, opuestas o alternas. Las márgenes frecuentemente son serradas o dentadas, pero también pueden ser enteras. Unos géneros tienen olores fuertes, dulces similar al girasol o agrios y desagradables. Unos géneros carecen del olor completamente. La característica que une la familia es la morfología distintiva de las flores. Tienen capítulos con flores pequeñas densamente agrupados, a veces con las flores periferales con pétalos muy grandes—básicamente, como una margarita. La mayoría de las Asteraceas en La Selva son herbáceas, pero hay unos géneros importantes de plantas leñosas: el bejuco de dosel Piptocarpha poeppigiana, y algunos géneros de arbustos o árboles pequeños.

Usos económicos: Se cultivan como ornamentales.

Genera/species at La Selva: (37/54): Herbs/ hierbas: Acmella (1), Ageratum (1), Bidens (1), Chaptalia (1), Chromolaena (1), Conyza (2), Cyanthillium (1), Eclipta (1), Elephantopus (1), Eleutheranthera (1), Emilia (2), Erechtites (1), Fleischmannia (2), Galinsoga (1), Garcilassa (1), Hebeclinum(1), Heterocondylus (1), Jaegeria (1), Lasianthaea (1), Melampodium(2), Melanthera (1), Neurolaena (1), Pseudelephantopus (2), Psuedogynoxys (1), Schistocarpha(1), Sinclairia (1), Spiracantha (1), Struchium (1), Synedrella (1), Youngia (1) Vines (occasionally woody)/ bejucos, a veces leñosos: Mikania (8) Lianas/ bejucos leñosos: Piptocarpha (1) Shrubs/ arbustos: Calea (1), Clibadium (4), Critonia (1), Eirmocephala (1), Koanophyllon (1), Vernonia (3), Zexmenia (1).

FIELD MARKS – alternate or opposite, simple, usually serrate, perma-press leaves (crush them and they rebound to original shape free of wrinkles) commonly 3-veined, abundant pith in center of stems, composite flowers of ray and disc florets.

Youngia japonica in flower. Photo by O. Vargas courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Youngia japonica composite flower consisting of disc (center) and ray (showy yellow at periphery) florets. Photo by O. Vargas courtesy of La Flora Digital de la Selva.
Piptocarpha peoppigiana is a liana with light gray undersides to the leaves due to a dense coating of hairs.

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