Erigeron & Symphyotrichum sp.

Symphyotrichum sp. on 10-3-18, #514-4.

Hello again! I woke up this morning and the thermometer on the back porch said almost 40° F. I felt like going back to bed but I was already far too awake for that. So, I made my coffee, fed the cats, and started working on this post.

 

While I was taking photos for the Wildflower Walk posts I had come across this daisy flowered plant in many areas. They are quite common so I didn’t take any of their photos at first. I thought they were basically the same plant. But, on October 3, I decided to take photos of one in the north hayfield. It wasn’t that tall because this area had been mowed. I had remembered taking photos of this plant several years ago and also of another species that had somewhat different flowers. That was back in 2013… Back then I wasn’t so intrigued with “daisy-flowered” plants because they were pretty common and not so interesting.

This time, however, something was a little strange… When I made my way from the north hay field to the back pasture there were many areas with these flowers. Again, not that interesting… Same plants different location. Then I crawled over the fence and made my way to the southeast corner of the south hayfield. Then I noticed something weird…

 

The flowers there were a little pink and had longer petals… I took a few photos of them and other wildflowers as I walked further down the side of the hayfield. The border between the hayfield and the trail (which was the former Rock Island Railroad tracks) is way overgrown and looks like a total disaster. There are many wildflower species in all this mess mainly of Japanese Honeysuckle and blackberry vines.

All along the south hayfield, all these “daisy-like” flowers were the same but not like the plants in the north hayfield. Most of them had this slight pink color.

Later on, I got online to do some investigating. The missouriplants.com website only had one plant that looked like the first photo I took. It identified the plant as Symphyotrichum pilosum (White Heath Aster). Anyway, it looked close enough to determine that’s what it was. But what about the pinkish flowers? So, I checked with the websites pink flowers plants with alternate leaves… Nothing… Then I went to the wildflowersearch.org website and typed in Symphyotrichum. There I found 20 different Symphyotrichum species in Missouri! Sure enough, some are white, pink, and lavender… That only led me back to take more photos. Not just of the flowers, but the back side of the flowers, stems, and leaves… When you don’t find a simple match, it can get quite complicated.

So, on October 4, I went back to take more photos. I decided I would take a different route to see what else I could find. As I crossed the electric fence by the lagoon I saw a plant like the one in the north pasture. Then I ventured to the southwest corner. HOLY CRAP!!!!

 

Here was another group of similar plants with darker pink flowers. Not only that…

 

They were growing much taller than me…

OK, I have to tell you a little secret… I am leading up to a discovery of another genus… Umm… One of the plants I first photographed in May. There are not very many here…

 

All of the species of Symphyotrichum look basically the same when you look underneath their flowers… missouriplants.org has this to say…

Inflorescence – Paniculate arrangement of flower heads. Heads pedunculate. Peduncles to +1cm long, each subtended by a foliaceous bract, densely pilose. Stems in the inflorescence densely pilose.

Involucre – Cylindric, 5-6mm tall, 3-4mm in diameter. Phyllaries apically acuminate to attenuate, with green spreading apices (the very tip hardened, sharp, and translucent), subulate, translucent but with a green midrib and apex, 4-5mm long, 1mm broad, mostly glabrous internally and externally but with some glands externally near the apex. Apical margins minutely glandular serrate (use a lens to see).

How many words do you understand?

Then there is this one…

Not a species of Symphyotrichum

 

It is Erigeron annuus (Annual Fleabane) or possibly Erigeron stringosus (Prairie Fleabane). Missouriplants.org has three species of Erigeron and wildflowersearch.org has two. The third species is Erigeron pulchellus but I think I can easily rule it out. I need to investigate further to identify this plant as E. annuus or E. stringosus. I was leaning toward Erigeron annuus, but now more toward E. stringosus. E. annuus can have pinkish flowers (which I have seen none) and the undersides are somewhat different. You also have to look at the amount and size of the hairs on the stems… It is possible both species are present. But, as I said, there are not very many of these plants here.

As far as which species of Symphyotrichum there are here… I think that will require further study in 2019 because I am quite sure there are more than two. Some are tall, some are shorter. Some only have white flowers while others are variable and can have pinkish flowers. Some only have pinkish flowers.

The stems and leaves also play an important part in plant ID. When there are multiple species possible, you have to read information from the experts. You also have to start working on ID early in the season because the hairs on the stems may fall off as summer progresses. I come to that conclusion because some species I have correctly identified, that should have hairy stems, seem to be bald in October… Some species have smaller hairs than others, some only on certain parts. So, if they have all fallen off by October, I need to start looking at them earlier, from spring through midsummer. Even though I am fairly certain that I have correctly identified many species, I certainly could be wrong.

I have come to one conclusion, though, that is quite obvious. I must be a little whacky to get involved with wildflower ID when I have no idea what I am even talking about. 🙂 I am not actually doing the hard work because the horticulturalists and botanists have already done that. I am just looking at their descriptions to identify what is here. I am learning from them and I am very grateful for all their hard work. It may look simple, but it is very complicated to be able to distinguish that there are different species in some genera and not merely variable from one location to another. Which is also, if not more, complicated.

I thoroughly enjoy learning about plants and wildflowers are a fairly new interest. Then there are the butterflies I try and photograph and ID. I found out it is much better to chase them around in the back pasture, out of sight, than in public view of the neighbors and people driving by. What would they think if they saw a 57-year-old man chasing butterflies? Yeah, I am laughing. 🙂

So, until next time… Have a great day or rest of your evening wherever you may be. Be safe, stay positive, and GET DIRTY!

4 comments on “Erigeron & Symphyotrichum sp.

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It is so confusing to try to figure out which asters you might have. I have a wild one in my garden. It planted itself and I have never figured out which one it is. I ought too because it does make me wonder.
    Seeing the lady fingers in your last post made me want to tell you about the local park lawn. In places it is all the lady fingers that have been mown severely short through the summer. It is now blooming all at the same time and appears like a pink haze over the lawn.
    Cheers

    Like

    • Hello Lisa! Yes, it can be difficult for sure. If your aster is indeed a wildflower, maybe you can find a few good wildflower websites to help. Maybe you can find one where you can select certain features to help narrow down the search. Well, if it is a species of Aster, that still could prove difficult because many have the same features. You may have to measure the flower and petals and look closely at the stems plus consider the height of the plant. I can imagine how neat the Ladyfingers look all blooming in the park. From a distance, you may not realize they are “weeds”. Thanks for the comment.

      Like

  2. Vicki says:

    I have some photos (from Melbourne) of a similar pinkish/mauve coloured little daisy and I wish I could remember where I filed them. They’re not in my daisy section. I eventually found a name and wonder if it was the same as yours (even though we live in different countries). 🙂

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    • Hello Vicki! It is quite possible they are the same genus of plants. According to Plants of the World Online by Kew, there are Erigeron and Symphyotrichum species that have been introduced to Australia. There are also Erigeron species that are native to southwest Australia. Here is a link to Plants of the World Online. You can do a name search for any family, genus, or species name and find where various species are native and introduced to. Scroll down on a family name page and you can see all accepted genera in the family. Scroll down on a genus page and you will find a list of accepted species of that particular genus… Of course, Australia may very well have many other similar “daisy-like” species we don’t have here. You just never know. We live in a world where species have done a lot of traveling. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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