When I think of composites (plants in the family Asteraceae), I think of asters, goldenrods, blazing stars... late bloomers that often provide some of the last color of the season before the snow begins to fall. Can you imagine my surprise when, while in Parrish, Florida a couple of weeks ago, we came across a composite in bloom?
When we first saw this colony of plants, the solitary flower heads were closed up and nodding, exposing the pink to purple abaxial sides of the ray flowers. In addition to this characteristic feature, the scapose stems were densely white pubescent, as were the undersides of the basally disposed leaves; the upper surfaces of the leaves were shiny and dark green.
When we arrived at this population later in the day, the flower heads had opened up and were upright, displaying the white adaxial surfaces of the ray flowers and the creamy white and yellow disk flowers. This composite is appropriately known as Woolly Sunbonnets (Chaptalia tomentosa). Unlike the late-season composites I mentioned previously, this species blooms from December to May.
Pineland Daisy, as this species is also known, grows in pinelands and open woods, in sandy bogs, in open areas, and along ditches in coastal states from North Carolina to Texas. It has easily become one of my favorite composites.