Asteraceae: Sunflower Family – Astereae Tribe: Goldenbush & Goldenrod

The Sunflower family is a very large family with over 25,000 members.  Botanists subdivide the family into a number of tribes, of which 14 are represented in Monterey County.  The Astereae (Aster tribe) includes a diverse range of  plants, some of which have clearly daisy-like flowers and others, even if the same genus, which do not.  This page includes most of the “golden” named plants, but not goldfields (Lasthenia).

Golden Fleece – Ericameria arborescens

Blooms:

Aug–Nov

Plant Height:

< 5 m

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open chaparral

Notes:

At first sight, this might be confused with Western Goldenrod (Euthamia occidentalis, see below), because both have many narrow leaves and clusters of small, bright yellow flowers.  However, Golden Fleece is a chaparral shrub, and its flower heads comprise only disk flowers.  Its leaves have sharp tips.

Mock Heather – Ericameria ericoides

Blooms:

Aug–Nov

Plant Height:

up to 2 m

Flower Size:

Medium cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open sunny areas, coastal and inland

Notes:

The appearance of this plant varies widely according to its habitat.  Immediately by the coast, it is low growing and compact.  But inland, it may be a medium-sized and rather leggy shrub.   The leaves are small and linear,  and the axillary leaves are in flat, fan-shaped clusters. Flower heads have 2–6 ray flowers and 8–14 disk flowers.  Heads with only 3 ray flowers are common, resembling an airplane propeller.  Fruits have a prominent white to tan pappus.

Eastwood’s Goldenbush – Ericameria fasciculata

Blooms:

Aug–Nov

Plant Height:

< 5 m

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Rare or Endangered?

Yes – 1b.1

Habitat:

Sandy soils, coastal

Notes:

Similar in appearance to the Golden Fleece (Ericameria arborescens, see above), but much smaller and has ray flowers (1–6 of them).  It can be distinguished from Mock Heather (E. ericoides, see above) by its very different leaves, and by the outer phyllary tips, which are not abruptly pointed and not leaf-like.  Fruits have a silky, densely hairy pappus.  Endemic to Monterey County.

Interior Goldenbush – Ericameria linearifolia

Blooms:

Mar–May

Plant Height:

40–150 cm

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Arid banks and slopes

Notes:

A much-branched shrub, found in the southeastern part of the county. It has 12–18 ray flowers (occasionally fewer), 9–20 mm in length. Stems and leaves are sticky.

Mojave Rabbitbrush – Ericameria nauseosa var. mohavensis

Blooms:

Aug–Oct

Plant Height:

0.5–2.8 m

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry scrub above 400 m

Notes:

A spreading shrub, generally smaller and more compact at higher elevations.  There are clusters of discoid flowers (no ray flowers). The flowers have a long-exserted style and spreading lobes.  The threadlike leaves are important in recognizing this variety.  The stems are nearly leafless at flowering time, densely tomentose, green becoming white. Found on Chews Ridge, and near the top of Mustang Grade.

Grass-leaved Western Goldenrod – Euthamia occidentalis

Blooms:

July–Nov

Plant Height:

0.6–2 m

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Streambanks & damp places

Notes:

Somewhat similar in appearance to Golden Fleece (Ericameria arborescens, see above), but slender, upright and not shrubby.  The flower heads have both ray (15–28) and disk (6–18) flowers.  The narrow leaves are not sharp-tipped.  Like many riparian dwellers, its leaves may shrivel and drop to conserve water in times of drought.

Dune Goldenrod – Solidago spathulata

Blooms:

May–Nov

Plant Height:

10–50 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dunes & headlands below 600 m

Notes:

Resembles California Goldenrod (Solidago velutina subsp. californica, see below) but is a smaller plant. The compact flower heads have 4–10 very small (2–4 mm) ray flowers.  The spoon-shaped leaves give the plant its scientific name. Leaf surfaces are glabrous, and the phyllaries oblong and blunt.

California Goldenrod – Solidago velutina subsp. californica

Blooms:

July–Oct

Plant Height:

20–150 cm

Flower Size:

Large cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Grassland & woodland margins

Notes:

A different genus from the Grass-leaved Western Goldenrod (Euthamia occidentalis, see above), but the inflorescences are similar, each with 6–11 rays flowers.  The plant may grow in a spike, with the flower-head in a loose arch or a one-sided pyramid or wand.  The oblanceolate to ovate leaves  have tapered bases and are alternate, decreasing noticeably in size towards the top of  the stem.