Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Tejon Milk-Aster

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Tejon Milk-Aster
Scientific Name:Stephanomeria cichoriacea
Family:Asteraceae (Sunflower)
Plant Type:Perennial
Size:1 Meter
Habitat:Chaparral, Coastal Sage
Blooms:July to October
Fire Response:Germinate from Seed

Stephanomeria cichoriacea is a species of flowering plant in the aster family known by the common names chicoryleaf wirelettuce and Fort Tejon milk aster. It is endemic to California, where it grows in the coastal mountain ranges like the Santa Monica Mountains. The plant is a Perennial herb, erect, 18 to 48 inches in height and has milky sap. It is found on rocky slopes and in open areas of Chaparral and Coastal Sage.

This plant is one of several plants whose genus is Stephenomeria - more commonly known as wirelettuce, belonging to the family Asteracea. A common identifying feature: these plants have flowerheads made of Ray Flowers (the botanical term is Ligulate). There are no disk flowers. At the species level it is often hard to tell which flower you are looking at because they have similar flowers. Stephanomeria cichoriacea distinguish itself by having the showiest flowers (often more than 13 Ligululate flowers per head). If one looks closely, the plants can be distinguished by variations in leaves, seeds and variations in the flower.

Milt`s book says this plant is uncommon. I have seen this plant the summit of Saddle Peak and on the trails around Circle-X (Mishe Mokwa and Sandstone Peak). Since the flower blooms in late Summer to early Fall this flower comes as a surprise to those who see it for the first time. How could something so beautiful bloom so long after Spring?

The flowers bloom on some very short stems and have a five toothed petals in purple to pink colors. The flowers are small less than an inch and a half in diameter with white pistils and stamens. The flowers have a Pappus (think Dandelion) similar to Cliff Aster, Twiggy Wreath, San Diego Milk-Aster among other flowers. The leaves are classified as alternate, oblong to oblanceolate and can be up to 8 inches long. The leaves remain on the plant through flowering season.

Origin of name: Stephanomer`ia: derived from the Greek stephane, wreath or crown, and meros, division (ref. genus Stephanomeria) Amazing descriptions in some of these flower names!(ref. CalFlora Plant Name Origins). Found on a wonderful site for native plant information.

Tejon Milk-Aster - Originally featured: January 2015
Last modified: October 25 2019 14:46:04.
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves