Symphyotrichum shortii; Asteraceae (aster family)
Some things to consider when trying to identify asters:
- size of flower head
- number of ray flowers
- number of disk flowers
- color of flowers (not as important as you may think)
- shape and size of leaf, including the leaf base and leaf tip
- leaf margin
- arrangement of leaves on the stem and whether they’re more or less consistently sized
- shape, size, color, and number of rows of phyllaries (bracts)
- presence of glands
- smoothness (or not) and color of stems
…you get the idea. Actually this is a pretty general list, but with almost 90 species of Symphyotrichum found in the US (about two dozen in this area), you really have to pay attention to details.
All of which is to say, I’m not always sure I’ve correctly id’d all the asters I’ve been posting about. But they sure are pretty.
aka hairy aster, awl aster; Symphyotrichum pilosum; Asteraceae (aster family)
So far this year I’ve found 19 different species of aster (Symphyotrichum or Eurybia). I haven’t managed to identify them all, but they are clearly different from each other. This one, though, I’m pretty sure of.
Note the characteristically hairy stem in the photo to the right.
Frost aster is another native found in eastern North America (from Texas through Quebec). It grows up to three feet tall in full sun and moist to dry conditions. I found this specimen growing out of the cracks along one of my favorite rocky bluffs upstream of Carderock.
Rudbeckia hirta var. pulcherima (aka R. serotina); Asteraceae (aster family)
Deisgnated the “floral emblem” of the state of Maryland in 1918 by the General Assembly, this short but showy plant grows almost everywhere in the US and Canada (but not in Arizona or Nevada). It likes sunny habitats, and is one of twenty two species of Rudbeckia native to the US.
Strangely enough, I almost never find them in my target area. I found this one in early October, the first one I’d seen in the wild this year.
Though they look like sunflowers (and are related), the Rudbeckias tend to have reflexed ray flowers and cone-shaped disks. See also tall coneflower (fotd Aug. 21) and purple-headed sneezeweed (fotd Aug. 25).
aka sunchoke,topinambour; Helianthus tuberosus; Asteraceae (aster family)
The Jerusalem artichoke is from the New World (not Jerusalem), and is only distantly related to the globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) that you buy in the grocery store, though they are both in the aster family. Globe artichokes are a type of thistle, actually, while this plant is a type of sunflower with an edible root. It grows up to 10 feet, with characteristically rough, hairy stems and leaves:
Jerusalem artichoke is native to most of the US except the desert southwest, and is considered a weed by some authorities. In this area you can find it on the forest edge along the riverbanks.
Symphyotrichum ericoides; Asteraceae (aster family)
As the season winds down I have little left to post about than asters. This one is found throughout much (but not all) of the eastern US and into the southwest. It’s a medium-sized plant that likes moist to dry soils, rocky places, and a bit of sun.