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Monday, September 15, 2014

Sorting out Asters- Two is Enough

There are so many kinds of asters, identification is a challenge, and remembering all the names is worse than a quiz naming the spinal nerves. At least there's a mnemonic for that!

Anyway, here are two I encountered this past week, and am pretty sure I've identified them correctly.

First is the flat-topped white aster, Aster umbellatus. At least two of the key features are in the name. The flowers are white, and the clusters are flat, although this picture doesn't show that very well.

Flat-topped white aster

Two other important things to look for are the sparse rays (you'd call them petals, but technically that's not what they are on asters). Each blossom might have only 2-15 of them, looking a lot as if some have gone missing. The other thing is that the leaves of this one don't clasp the stem. In many asters, they do.

Flat-topped white aster

Now for a blue species, Aster prenanthoides. I struggled with this one, because it wasn't either of the ones I thought it was. However, the leaves finally gave it away, so I'll start with them. These do clasp the stem a bit, but that's not the big thing. Notice the odd shape? They are wide at the tip with a few teeth, then taper quickly to have almost parallel sides near the base.

Crooked-stemmed aster

The common name, crooked-stemmed aster, comes from a feature that isn't revealed very clearly in my picture, but you can sort of see it. Follow the stalk that is coming from the top of the picture toward the bottom. At each joint the stem turns a little bit, looking zig-zag. I'll have to find a better example.

Crooked-stemmed aster

Now the question is, will I remember these?

See Bushy Aster
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Ann said...

Your chances of remembering those are way better than mine are :)

vanilla said...

As fall approaches, I delight in finding asters along the way. But for me, simply to be able to correctly say "aster" is as close as I will ever get to identification! Good for you.

Secondary Roads said...

I'd never before taken time to observe those characteristics of asters. Then again, it's been a while since I've seen one.

RNSANE said...

The white flowers look pretty against the dark green background.

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