The composite family has numerous names including the sunflower family, the daisy family and the aster family. Worldwide it may be the largest plant family, in competition with orchids. There are many composite family members found in Alaska.
The blossom is made from many seperate flowers. The disk flowers are in the center and sit on top of the stem. The disk flowers are surrounded by ray flowers that are sometimes referred to incorrectly as petals. Some members have ray flowers only, others have disk flowers only, and some have both. Each flower has 5 united petals, 5 stamens and 1 ovary. Modified hairs are called the pappus which are considered to once have been the sepals.
A circle of bracts (a reduced or modified leaf) is usually present at the base of the flower head. Leaves are various.
As a whole the family is considered especially well adapted to cooler, dry climates.
Sagebrush or wormwood (Artemesia) is the only woody genus of this family in Alaska. Only 2 of these, Alaska sagebrush (Artemesia alaskana) and Fringed sagebrush (Artemesia frigida) are considered shrubs. They are woody near the base and grow in warm dry places usually steep and rocky river bluffs facing south.