Flower of the Day: Lesser Snakeroot

Ageratina aromatica; Asteraceae (aster family)

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The Eupatorium-type flowers aren’t quite done yet.  A. aromatica’s big brother, Ageratina altissima, dominates the scene – you can find them by the dozens along the Billy Goat trails – but tucked in little nooks on sandy soils you might find this small species, too.

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As you can see, this is another one of the rayless composites, consisting only of disk flowers.  It’s found throughout the eastern US as far north as New York; some sources state that it ranges further into New England, but is rare or endangered there.

Flower of the Day: Calico Aster

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (formerly Aster lateriflorus); Asteraceae (aster family)

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Plants formerly in the genus Aster have been reclassified into more than 100 genera, based on DNA analysis (the old system of taxonomy went by flower and fruit morphology), which is only one of many factors that make these plants hard to ID if you’re an amateur enthusiast.  Most of those plants found in this area are now classed as Eurybia, Symphyotrichum, or Doellingeria.

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Calico aster is a common woodland plant found throughout the eastern half of the US and Canada.  It grows to three feet tall and is often covered in masses of flowers, a delightful sight at a time of year when little else is blooming and leaves are falling from trees.

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One thing to keep in mind: it’s entirely possible that I’ve mis-identified this plant!  If you think so, please leave me a comment, and thanks.

Flower of the Day: Common Beggar-Ticks

aka devil’s beggar-ticks; Bidens frondosa; Asteraceae (aster family)

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At this time of year the asters are just about the only things blooming in the Potomac gorge.  This one is comprised entirely of disk flowers; the rays absent. The green parts surrounding the flower head are bracts.  20140908-DSC_0042

According to the USDA, there are 26 species (one of them alien) of Bidens found in North America.  Another one is Spanish needles, fotd 9/12.  This one is probably the most widespread of them.  It prefers moist soils and full sunlight but can tolerate some dry and shade; it’s prone to becoming a nuisance plant. While looking into the origin of the common name I tripped across a New Zealand website that featured it as Weed of the Month.

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The common name comes from the fact that the seeds hitch a ride on the fur (or clothing) of passing animals.