Flowers of the aster family usually have a central nubbly flower disk (which can be inconspicuous), usually surrounded by "petals" (rays). Sunflowers are a classic example. There are exceptions! The aster family includes so many species in New Mexico that I had to split this page into four. Genera beginning with C through F are on this page. Click on the links to see genera beginning with A or B, G through M, and N through Z.
When you encounter a slide show, hover your cursor over the images to control the images. Those are in alphabetical order by genus and species.
Baby Aster (Chaetopappa ericoides)
Buena Mujer, Mexican Devilweed (Chloracantha spinosa)
The body of this shrubby plant seems like all stems and no leaves. Look for small flowers with a raised yellow center and stubby white "petals" (rays), turning into small puffballs. The plants use rhizomes (underground stems) to spread and form large colonies.
Chamisa, Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus)
I've lived in New Mexico, mostly, since 1985 and until recently I thought that there was one species of chamisa, aka rabbitbrush. Not only are there multiple species, they fall into two or three genera. I think that these images are of Chrysothamnus depressus, given how the leaves press against the stems and the sharply pointed "petals." You'll see other rabbitbrush pictures under Ericameria.
New Mexico Thistle (Cirsium neomexicanum)
Yellow-Spine Thistle (Cirsium ochrocentrum)
Pallid Thistle (Cirsium parryi)
Horseweed is a common midsummer weed in Albuquerque. One of my pictures shows a seed head; if you look carefully at the lower right corner of that image, you can make out a green-legged crab spider.
Purple Aster (Dieteria)
Purple asters bloom profusely in the late summer, warning New Mexico hikers to get in mountain rambles while they can. If they have entire to toothed leaves they're from the genus Dieteria; if they have pinnate leaves they're from the genus Machaeranthera. The blooms I photographed in November 2019 were a few brave holdouts in a patch where the asters had either formed or dispersed their seeds.
Turpentine Bush (Ericameria laricifolia)
In Albuquerque, Turpentine Bush exists only as a plant used in xeriscaping. It's included here because it occurs as a wild species in the southwest quadrant of New Mexico. Turpentine Bush blooms profusely at the same time as rabbitbrush but if you look closely, the flowers and leaves are different; compare these images with the ones immediately below. Crushing a sprig may yield a turpentine-like smell.
Chamisa, Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa)
These images show what I think of "classic" rabbitbrush, Ericameria nauseosa (which I learned, decades ago, as Chrysothamnus nauseosus). That species consists of large, bushy plants (reaching above waist height). The flexible green younger branches turn into woody stems and lower branches with age. When the tips of the branches turn yellow with flowers, it's a sure sign that the warm months are almost over. When the air is still, the collected scent of the flowers smells like dead animals—hence the nauseosa part of the scientific name.
Fleabane, Showy Daisy (Erigeron)
There are multiple species of fleabane—a type of daisy with many fine "petals," actually rays. I've decided to call them all fleabanes and leave it at that. They tend to be a light purple. A July 2019 photo from the Jemez Mountains shows how they can look white—but when you flip them over, you should see a purple tinge on the rays' undersides.
Western Goldentop (Euthamia occidentalis)
My photos are from the start of the flowering season for this plant. In the Rio Grande Bosque it occurs as a lush growth of waist-high "weeds." Look for flat crowns of small yellow flowers, on top of plants with narrow leaves. Look also for a pair or pairs of lateral veins paralleling the central vein of each leaf. If you look carefully at the picture with my hand in it, you can see a leaf (to the right of the tip of my middle finger) with a pair of parallel lateral veins.
Alkali Yellowtops (Flaveria campestris)
For the next page of aster family wildflowers, click here.