The composite family, like the majority of mortals, has its good and its bad characteristics; but if we drink deep enough of knowledge of the family and put ourselves in friendship with it, we will probably find that we are tipped in the scale of its favour.
We must first resign a natural feeling of resentment at its aggressiveness and its habit of flaunting itself from every available space. Its children, we must remember, have been a little neglected in education and know no better. They arrive at a season of the year when the dear preacher has retired from his pulpit and they have not the advantage of hearing his good doctrine. The violet is busy rooting its runners for the next season's growth and no longer raises its head to teach them about modesty. So being born with rather bold tastes, the poor composites think that they are doing quite a fine thing in puffing themselves up and topping over everything.
If they were much spoken about in the good old-fashioned times it must have been with the expression that there was not a lazy hair in one of their heads. The energetic way in which they set about dispersing their seeds is truly wonderful, and, as has been already hinted at, their moral character not being fully developed, they have no compunction whatever in using some very extraordinary means. But this might possibly be explained by their agreeing with Loyola in doctrine. The unkind way many of them have of covering sheep, the only animal without a weapon of defense, with their hooked fruits is alluded to in this connection.
To those that complain of their downright maliciousness in retaliation for the hay fever, the composites answer calmly: "We are a family that does not invite intimacy. View us from a distance, en masse, and many of our failings will be overlooked." Evidently this lesson of avoiding familiarity is what they wish us to learn.
And who does not delight in the fields that are radiant with their rich autumn colouring ? They visit the earth when the more delicate blossoms have passed bloom, and they find things dry and dusty, showing the wear and tear of the summer. Then what can be more natural than that they should say to themselves: "Brighten up the earth, appear in every waste corner, wave and bend with the breeze. Things are looking humdrum here; make the earth a merry carnival of dancing colour."
The flowers are rather difficult for a beginner to analyse with reference to their species, of which there are over ten thousand. It is, however, not so much what one learns in books about them as it is what one finds out. They may be easily recognised by bearing in mind that the flowers are closely packed together in heads that are surrounded by an involucre. The individual flowers are tubular or ligulate, as in the thistle and dandelion, and again both tubular and ligulate flowers are arranged in the same head. In this case they are called ray and disk flowers. The common field daisy is a well-known illustration of the latter.