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.
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.
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.
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.
Now the question is, will I remember these?
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