Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster)

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-24-21, #851-10.

Calico Aster, Fall Aster, Goblet Aster, Starved Aster, Wild Aster

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum

sim-fy-oh-TRY-kum  la-ter-uh-FLOR-um

Synonyms of Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (60) (Updated on 12-26-21 from Plants of the World Online): Aster acadiensis Shinners, Aster agrostifolius E.S.Burgess, Aster bellidiflorus var. rigidulus (Nees) DC., Aster bifrons Lindl. ex DC., Aster diffusus Aiton, Aster diffusus var. bifrons (Lindl. ex DC.) A.Gray, Aster diffusus f. bifrons (Lindl. ex DC.) Voss, Aster diffusus var. hirsuticaulis (Lindl. ex DC.) A.Gray, Aster diffusus f. hirsuticaulis (Lindl. ex DC.) Voss, Aster diffusus var. horizontalis (Desf.) A.Gray, Aster diffusus var. variifolius Peck, Aster divaricatus Raf. ex DC., Aster divergens Aiton, Aster divergens var. diffusus (Aiton) Nutt., Aster divergens var. humilior DC., Aster divergens var. pendulus (Aiton) Nutt., Aster hirsuticaulis Lindl. ex DC., Aster horizontalis Desf., Aster lateriflorus (L.) Britton, Aster lateriflorus var. angustifolius Wiegand, Aster lateriflorus var. bifrons (Lindl. ex DC.) Fernald, Aster lateriflorus var. flagellaris Shinners, Aster lateriflorus var. glomerullus E.S.Burgess, Aster lateriflorus var. grandis Porter, Aster lateriflorus var. hirsuticaulis (Lindl. ex DC.) Porter, Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis Farw., Aster lateriflorus var. indutus Shinners, Aster lateriflorus var. pendulus E.S.Burgess, Aster lateriflorus var. spatelliformis (E.S.Burgess) A.G.Jones, Aster lateriflorus var. tenuipes Wiegand, Aster leucanthemus Raf., Aster miser Nutt., Aster miser var. abbreviatus DC., Aster miser var. diffusus (Aiton) L.C.Beck, Aster miser var. divergens (Aiton) L.C.Beck, Aster miser var. glomerellus Torr. & A.Gray, Aster miser var. hirsuticaulis (Lindl. ex DC.) Torr. & A.Gray, Aster miser var. miserrimus Torr. & A.Gray, Aster miser var. myrtifolius (Willd.) DC., Aster miser var. pendulus (Aiton) L.C.Beck, Aster miser var. vimineus Farw., Aster myrtifolius Willd., Aster pendulus Aiton, Aster recurvatus Günther ex Nees, Aster rigidulus Nees, Aster scoparius Nees, Aster seliger Nees, Aster spatelliformis E.S.Burgess, Aster tenuipes (Wiegand) Shinners, Aster tradescanti Michx., Aster vimineus var. columbianus Britton, Aster vimineus var. dubius Wiegand, Solidago lateriflora L., Symphyotrichum lateriflorum var. angustifolium (Wiegand) G.L.Nesom, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum var. flagellare (Shinners) G.L.Nesom, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum var. hirsuticaule (Lindl. ex DC.) G.L.Nesom, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum var. horizontale (Desf.) G.L.Nesom, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum var. spatelliforme (E.S.Burgess) G.L.Nesom, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum var. tenuipes (Wiegand) G.L.Nesom, Venatris salicifolius Raf.

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (L.) Á. Löve & D. Löve is the accepted scientific name for this species of Symphyotrichum. It was named and described as such by Áskell Löve and Doris Benta Maria Löve in Taxon in 1982. It was first named and described as Solidago lateriflora by Carl von Linnaeus in the second edition of the first volume of Species Plantarum in 1753.

The genus, Symphyotrichum Nees, was named and described as such by Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck in Genera et Species Asterearum in 1832.

As of 12-26-21 when tis page was updated, Plants the World Online by Kew lists 97 species in the Symphyotrichum genus. It is a member of the plant family Asteraceae with 1,678 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO. The number of genera in this family fluctuates quite often.

Distribution map of Symphyotrichum lateriflorum from Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved on October 28, 2021.

The above distribution map for Symphyotrichum lateriflorum is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green are where the species is native and purple where it has been introduced. The map for North America above Mexico from the USDA Plants Database is similar and also includes British Columbia in Canada. The subordinate taxa listed on the USDA Plants Database are listed as synonyms on POWO… 

The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations. The maps on iNaturalist are continually updated as members post new observations.


Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-24-21, #851-11.

I went for another wildflower walk to the back of the farm on 10-24-21. I found several of these plants growing on both sides of a drainage ditch behind the pond in the back pasture. Right off, I knew I hadn’t identified this one before. I was kind of excited to find a different species but I soon realized I was going to be in a predicament… Here is a member of the aster family, likely a species of Symphyotrichum with leaves that resemble a species of Erigeron… Why in the heck are there single flowers growing on top of clusters of leaves like that? Normally, Symphyotrichum species have clusters of flowers on top of the plant. Well, as far as I am concerned, members of that genus are tough. I have managed to identify six species, five on my farm and one on a friend’s farm. There are a few others here I am still confused about.

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-24-21, #851-12.

It made absolutely no sense to me at all… Later, I went back to the house and went through the photos for the day, and uploaded the observations on iNaturalist. When I got to these photos, INaturalist suggested Symphyotrichum drummondii… I checked out that species on Missouri Plants and a few other sites linked on Wildflower Search and couldn’t see any resemblance as far as the leaves were concerned. I checked out the other suggestions the list and had the same opinion…  The leaves on those species were fairly long and narrow and some of the flowers weren’t right either

Then I looked at the photos I had taken again and noticed something…

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-24-21, #851-13.

What in the heck is that dead leaf dangling from the stem on this photo? Hmmm… By then it was too late to go to the back of the farm to check. I suppose I could have taken a flashlight.

I went back on the 24th and made a discovery…

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-25-21, #852-12.

Would you look at that!?!? It’s a long, narrow leaf! Sometimes I had focused at one plant on one side of the ditch and didn’t pay any attention to the plants on the other side. You know, the bigger picture. There were a few longer leaves and the basal flowers on these plants were different colors. That reminded me of a “certain” species I checked out the day before that was not on Missouri Plants. The disc flowers change color with the species I am debating which gives it the common name…

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-25-21, #852-13.

SO, I began to wonder if deer had perhaps eaten the leaves and stems previously which made them re-grow differently. That happens with some plants…

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-25-21, #852-14.

I checked more photos of the species I was debating on iNaturalist. After A LOT of photos, I found one with similar leaves… ONLY ONE. I went ahead and posted the two observations (one for each day) as the species I thought it was. Then I decided I would find out who posted that observation and send them a message. Low and behold, the observation was from 2017 from a member I had corresponded with about a few other observations. She was confused about what species she had found in 2017 and contacted another member for help. When I messaged her, she suggested I contact them for their opinion.

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-25-21, #852-15.

I told them what I thought it was and I had wondered if deer eating the leaves and stems could make new leaves grow weird. They agreed my observation was Symphyotrichum lateriflorum, the Calico Aster (along with other common names) and they both became Research Grade. They also agreed deer eating the leaves and stems could cause the new leaves to look differently.

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-25-21, #852-16.

What about the involucral bracts? Always check them out with members of the family Asteraceae. They can be appressed, recurved, in multiple rows (ETC.) depending on the species, subspecies, or varieties. With Symphyotrchum lateriflorum, they are appressed as in the above photo.

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-25-21, #852-17.

There are very few of these longer leaves on any of the plants. Most of the lower leaves (basal) fall off on many species during flowering, while the upper leaves are much smaller. Missouri Plants lists 17 species of Symphyotrichum in the state of Missouri. However, they DO NOT have this species but they mention it as a “look-alike” of S. lanceolatum… I checked the map on the USDA Plants Database for Missouri and the species is supposedly found in many counties but Pettis (where my farm is) is not one of them. It shows they are present in all the counties next to Pettis, including Henry which is across the street… But, you know, they base their evidence mostly on dried, pressed specimens collected many years ago. I checked the BONAP map, which was updated in 2014, and it appears Pettis may be on the map. I say “may” because it is very hard to tell… The species has 60 synonyms and its current scientific name wasn’t accepted until 1982…

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-25-21, #852-18.

Flowers of S. lateriflorum are very interesting. The basal flowers in the center change color from yellowish, to pink, to brown.

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster) on 10-25-21, #852-19.

I will keep an eye on the colony in 2022…

I apologize for not writing complete descriptions of this plant’s stems, leaves, and flowers. I have a lot of photos to add I took over the summer, several species pages to write, and updates to make. It is a wintertime project but I do get behind. There are several links below with great descriptions. I will write descriptions as soon as I have time.

I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. My farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 100 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the page). I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing, and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a few horticulturalists I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.

I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.


NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂