It’s all part of growing up, but often in families there will be two little girls, cousins, just the same age and inevitably, one will be prettier than the other. That’s the case with Polymnia and Smallanthus, both “leaf cups” that are quite similar botanically. Members of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family, both produce what seems to be an overabundance of vegetation compared to the reproductive structures. But the most important characteristic that they share is that the central disk florets of the inflorescence (“flower”) are sterile, surrounded by fertile ray florets, the opposite situation of, say, sunflowers. But here’s the thing: Polymnia produces such an insignificant-looking flower that it’s often overlooked, whereas Smallanthus, the “prettier cousin,” has big, beautiful yellow inflorescences. Look for it now on roadsides and in sunny spots in the forest.
The Prettier Cousin