DixPix Photographs



  Flora: ASTERACEAE, Thistles & Vines  


The ASTER or SUNFLOWER FAMILY is known either as ASTERACEAE, or by the older and more descriptive name COMPOSITAE.  It is a huge family, something like 23,000 species globally.  Although the orchid family has more species, the asters are more prominent, especially in temperate climates.  The family is renown both for its variety of garden flowers and for its variety of widespread weeds.

There have been a very great number of Asteraceae species described in the Southern Cordillera, and much confusion.  For purposes of this web site, the family has been rather roughly divided into six pages, namely Cluster Flowers, Daisy Like, Dandelion Like, Senecios and Kin. Sunflower Like, and finally Thistles and Vines.  This does not follow more formal and complex methods of dividing the family.


In its native Mediterranean, Cynara cardunculus goes by names such as Cardoon, or Castillan Thistle.  It is a variant of the artichoke, and once widely grown on both sides of the Atlantic.  The buds are edible, but the stalk and roots were more commonly consumed.  It was also a source of rennet, used to make cheese.  In Chile and especially in Argentina, it has become an aggressive weed with the local name of Cardo Penquero. Click to see big picture (640x430 pixels; 156 KB)
A closer view of the heads of Cardoons emphasizes their relationship to artichokes.   Photo from hear the Chilean beach town of Iloca.
Carduus thoermeri or C. nutans has been introduced from Europe, where it is known as Musk Thistle.  A large and handsome plant, it has proved especially invasive in Argentina, where its success can be gauged by the local name of Cardo Comun. Click to see big picture (640x425 pixels; 102 KB)
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is an Eurasian, and may have originally been imported for medicinal reasons.  Its seeds are used for treatment of liver ailments and other problems.  The local name is Cardo Mariano. Click to see big picture (519x480 pixels; 87 KB)
The patterned leaves of Milk Thistle are more striking than the flower. Click to see big picture (457x480 pixels; 128 KB)
Cirsium vulgare is another Eurasian which people elsewhere wish would go home.  It is classified as noxious or even injurious, and has become widespread in the southern Cordillera.  The most usual name is Bull Thistle, and locally Cardo Negro. Click to see big picture (640x409 pixels; 108 KB)
Cirsium arvense is an intruder from the same source as Bull Thistle, but it is at least less prickly.  The usual name is Creeping Thistle, but it is also known as Canada Thistle, although Canada is a victim rather than the source.  Like Bull Thistle, the roots are edible, and it is similarly called Cardo Negro.  It is now common in parts of Chile. Click to see big picture (595x480 pixels; 102 KB)
Should you be wondering why some thistles are so invasive, here is a seed mass of "thistle down" waiting for a wind. Click to see big picture (640x405 pixels; 113 KB)
Another fugitive from the Mediterranean is Carthamus lanatus, known at home as Distaff Thistle or Saffron Thistle.  It seems to now be widespread within the southern Cordillera, going by the name of Cardilla. Click to see big picture (640x424 pixels; 112 KB)
And yet another blonde from the same area, now rampant in central and south Argentina.  Meet Abrepuño, the Yellow Star Thistle, Centaurea solstitialis. star thistle
Centaurea calcitrapa, the European Red Star-thistle, has moved into central Chile and is widely found in Argentina. The local name is Cizaña. Click to see big picture (553x480 pixels; 90 KB)
Although the Centaurea genus is a pretty weedy bunch, C. cyanus is a garden flower, and likely was imported into Patagonia as such.  In garden circles it is known as Bachelor Buttons. Click to see big picture (569x480 pixels; 80 KB)
But there is also a very lovely native member of the genus.  Centaurea chilensis is known as Flor del Minero (Miner's flower).  With three varieties, it may be found in northern and central Chile. Click to see big picture (640x440 pixels; 115 KB)
Nobody has ever accused Xanthium spinosum of being lovely, although it is widespread in the mountains.  In some parts it is called Cepa Caballo, and is used in folk medicine.  In its native Europe goes by the name of Spiny Cocklebur. Click to see big picture (530x480 pixels; 99 KB)
Xanthium cavanillesii is known as Abrojo Grande or as Clonqui.  It is a weed of Argentina and Chile, which produces large cockleburrs that become tangled in the tails of horses.
Chuquiraga oppositifolia is a paired-leaf bush that is known to occur in the mountains of all four countries of the Southern Cordillera.  In Chile it is called by the non-specific name Hierba Blanca, and in Argentina as Chirriador, which makes reference to the noise it makes in moving. Click to see big picture (640x414 pixels; 128 KB)
Chuquiraga erinacea of Bolivia and western Argentina.  There are two subspecies, both widespread and prickly. Click to see big picture (640x364 pixels; 108 KB)
In central and southern Argentina, Chuquiraga avellanedae bushes form large mounds.  The local name is Quilimbay. Click to see big picture (640x380 pixels; 150 KB)
Actually there are three or four species going by the name of Quilimbay in Patagonian Argentina.  The case on the right here differs in having serrated leaves. Click to see big picture (640x416 pixels; 98 KB)
In northwestern Argentina, cuttings from this plant are put under horse saddles, apparently it calms the animals. Click to see big picture (640x436 pixels; 89 KB)
From the mountains of western Peru, the flower of Barnadesia horrida, which goes by the name of Llaulli. Click to see big picture (552x480 pixels; 106 KB)
A look at the thorns on the full plant shows where the "horrida" comes from, and as Llaulli is pronounced 'Yowyee' it may have arisen from someone backing into one. Click to see big picture (640x368 pixels; 125 KB)
Also from Peru, an unidentified bush, well armed with yellow spines.  It is locally called Huamanpinta, and in folk medicine is used for coughs.  That name is usually applied to Chuquiraga spinosa, alias C. rotundifolia. Click to see big picture (321x480 pixels; 82 KB)
Common Burdock (Arctium minus) is a product of Europe and Asia, which is now widespread in Argentina, extending into adjacent countries.  As the original velcro, the seeds are spread by clinging to animals.  The young roots are edible, and the plant is used in Chinese medicine (what isn't?). Click to see big picture (468x480 pixels; 99 KB)
Absinthe Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) was used in the Old World as an insecticide, a flavoring and a remedy for worms, as well as for the mind-altering drink for which it is named.  Mildly poisonous.  Imported and naturalized in central and southern Chile and Argentina. Click to see big picture (316x480 pixels; 64 KB)
Ambrosia chamissonis has taken hold on the Chilean beaches, but for a change it came from North America rather than from Eurasia.  Beachburr and Silverburr Ragweed are two names. Click to see big picture (630x480 pixels; 118 KB)
And this is how Beachburr spreads out to take over a beach, in this case at Iloca in central Chile.
Far from the beaches is an alpine cousin, Ambrosia arborescens.  This blights the high country from Columbia to Chile.  Here in central Peru it goes by the name of Marco. marco
Mikania sp.  The genus contains many species of small-flowered, easily ignored vines.  The 'mile a minute vine' plaguing more tropical areas is its best known member. Click to see big picture (431x480 pixels; 75 KB)
The flowers of Mutisia vines in southern Chile and Argentina, are called Clavels del Campo, even though the term 'clavel' in Spanish usually refers to carnations or pinks.  Click to see big picture (474x480 pixels; 96 KB)
The orange flowered variety are usually Mutisia decurrens, known as Clavel de Campo Anaranjado.  As these are vines, it is often difficult in photos to tell which leaves belong to the clavel. Click to see big picture (610x480 pixels; 122 KB)
There are several pink Mutisia  to choose from.  The leaves indicate that this is the pink version of M. subulata; Clavel de Campo Rosado. Click to see big picture (583x480 pixels; 128 KB)
This appears to be Mutisia rosea, which despite the 'rosea' name is only reddish on the back of some petals.  The locals name it Clavel del Campo Amarillo for its yellowish caste.  Central and southern Chile. clavel rosea
There is a red clavel which also goes by the name of Flor de la Granada, Mutisia subulata var. rosmarinifolia.  It is also known as Hierba de Jote (buzzard herb?) Click to see big picture (614x480 pixels; 145 KB)
A closer look at the flower.  There are other species of red-flowered Mutisia in the alpine zone, but those with thin leaves are likely to be M. subulata. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 103 KB)
Mutisia ilicifolia is found in central Chile.  The holly-leaves belong to it. Click to see big picture (449x480 pixels; 79 KB)
Another species with somewhat holly-like leaves is Mutisia spinosa, appearing here near the town of Coyhaique in patagonian Chile.
Jumping to Peru, this elongated version of a clavel is Mutisia acuminata, locally known as Chinchircuma.  The species may be found from here down into northwestern Argentina. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 90 KB)
A closer look at the flowers and seeds of Chinchircuma in the Cordillera Negra of Peru. Click to see big picture (507x480 pixels; 88 KB)
And in the botanical gardens at UC Berkeley, this is displayed as Mutisia acuminata var. acuminata.