I'm wondering what taxonomic family sunflowers (Helianthus) belong to. Although it's mentioned it belongs to family Asteraceae it is also a composite flower. So it belongs to Asteraceae or Compositae or both? And do they refer to the same family or to different families?

  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteraceae#Etymology not the most scientific source, but they seem to be synonyms. $\endgroup$
    – picapica
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 15:34
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ There are a number of plant families that, for historical reasons, have two accepted family names. In addition to Asteraceae/Compositae, there's also Fabaceae/Leguminosae, Poaceae/Gramineae, and others. $\endgroup$
    – C_Z_
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


They are either treated or even declared to be synonyms in all the texts using both of the terms that I have ever read.

Just one reference: the nearest Flora on my desk, G. Marconi, F. Corbetta, Flora della Pianura Padana e dell'Appennino Settentrionale, uses the notation Compositae = Asteraceae.

It is worth to note that Compositae, 'composite ones' in Latin, refers to the their typical capitulum inflorescence, while Asteraceae comes from Aster, a genus belonging to the family, meaning 'star' in Latin, which represents an allusion to the shape of the inflorescence of Aster, and of many other species, which is supposed to look like a star whose rays are represented by the ligules of the ligulate tiny flowers of the capitulum. Nevertheless, there also are species of the family having no ligulate flowers, for ex. Tanacetum vulgare.


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