08 de enero de 2022

Wikipedia's Did You Know on 8 January 2022

See the main page from a browser (not the app), and you will find the following as the lead DYK with a high-quality photo of Symphyotrichum novae-angliae.

"Did you know ... that the Chippewa have smoked the root of the New England aster in pipes to attract game?"

Link to article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphyotrichum_novae-angliae


Ingresado el 08 de enero de 2022 por elizabeth1067 elizabeth1067 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

Symphyotrichum subulatum "complex"

This is something I wrote on an observation from San Antonio at this link: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/100266130. It probably can apply to anywhere, with modification.

There are (or were) five varieties of S. subulatum (see descriptions at http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=250049273). POWO has recently (in the last few months) synonymized S. subulatum var. ligulatum to S. divaricatum and S. subulatum var. parviflorum to S. expansum (the latter based on 2018 Catalogue of Life circumscription). The December 2021 Catalogue of Life release now synonymizes S. expansum to S. parviforum, which takes nomenclatural precidence because of the timeline in which the basionyms were described. I expect POWO will update to that eventually (probably sometime this year).

Most iNat observations of the varieties of S. subulatum are only at the species level. However, the varieties are quite different in characteristics, and most of their ranges do not overlap. These are likely two of the reasons for the change in acceptance of some (and probably later more) of the varieties back to the species level as proposed by Guy L. Nesom in the 1990s. So, an ID of S. subulatum at the species level can somewhat confidently be honed down to varietal level.

In Texas, the most common at the former varietal level is S. subulatum var. ligulatum (now S. divaricatum), followed by S. s. var. parviflorum (now S. expansum or S. parviforum, depending on the circumscription as I discussed above). The autonym is S. s. var. subulatum, or the actual equivalent of the species, and the USDA PLANTS database shows that it only has a presence in Chambers and Orange counties. The other two varieties, S. s. var. squamatum (circumstribed to by some as S. squamatum) and S. s. var. elongatum (circumscribed to by some as S. bahamense) are not native to Texas and have a very different native range. However, S. s. var. squamatum, although a native South American species, does have an introduced presence in a few southern US states, including Texas, according to POWO and the USDA PLANTS database. In Texas, var. ligulatum (now S. divaricatum) and var. parviflorum (now S. expansum or S. parviforum) have mostly non-overlapping ranges, with the latter solely in the southwestern-most counties. In San Antonio, only S. divaricatum is present according to USDA PLANTS database (unless of course the introduced S. s. var. squamatum is there, but there is no data available on the county-level for the introduced, or I haven’t found it yet).

What I am working on is trying to sort out the species-level S. subulatum identifications into the appropriate varieties, or new species names where relevant. This has to be done manually rather than with an automatic taxon name swap because, as I said, most of the observations are at the species rather than varietal level.

Regarding characteristics, these are also quite different among the varieties. From the FNA link I gave above (including drilling in to the varieties), here are a few of the differences as applied to the observation I linked to, above (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/100266130).

S. subulatum var. subulatum has 16-30 ray florets in 2 series that are white and that dry white or lavender in 0-1 outward-curling coils. Characteristics do not match the observation. Add to it the lack of presence in the area, and I ruled this out.

S. subulatum var. squamatum (S. squamatum), 21-28(-38) ray florets in 2-(3) series, white, drying white or lavender with INWARD curls but rarely coiling. Introduced in Texas. Characteristics do not match the observation. I ruled this out.

S. subulatum var. elongatum (S. bahamense), 30-54 ray florets in 2-3 series, pink to lavender and drying in 2-3-(4) outward-curling coils. Characteristics do not match the observation. Far southeastern US species including the Caribbean. No recorded presence in Texas. I ruled this out.

S. subulatum var. parviflorum (S. expansum, S. parviflorum), (23–)27–37(–42) ray florets in (1–)2 series that are usually white, sometimes pink, and dry in 1–2 outward-curling coils. Characteristics do not match the observation. Presence in Texas is southwestern. I ruled this out.

This left S. subulatum var. ligulatum (S. divaricatum), which has 17–30(–45) ray florets in one series, lavender to blue, and that dry in 3–5 coils that roll under. Present in Texas is widespread, including in San Antonio area. Description matches the observation. I selected this which, as you see, is now S. divaricatum.

Just to add that one of the most important (or two, rather) characteristics of any species in the family Asteraceae are the involucre and its phyllaries. I did not differentiate here, but there is a difference among these five. I have made a spreadsheet of the information from FNA that lists, in columnar form, the sames and differents among them. If you wish to have a copy, please message me your email address.

Ingresado el 08 de enero de 2022 por elizabeth1067 elizabeth1067 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de enero de 2022

Today's Featured Article on Wikipedia

Today's Featured Article on Wikipedia is Symphyotrichum lateriflorum. It's kind of a big deal. :)


Or just go to https://en.wikipedia.org to find it on the main page if today is 5 January 2022.

Ingresado el 05 de enero de 2022 por elizabeth1067 elizabeth1067 | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de enero de 2022

Symphyotrichum questions or answers, part 1

I've been on an ID binge recently (some people watch Netflix all day... some people are out in the field... some people work…). I am learning, and likely always will be learning, the Symphyotrichum genus. Caveat is that I am not a botanist, never will be, and my field work is very limited. But I love this genus with most of my heart and soul. Crazy, I know.

I discovered it in my yard, beginning my self-taught non-career of this genus there. Interest in botany began perhaps in the mountains of North Carolina some decades ago... back in the days when I could hike to the top of Grandfather Mountain, or even better, hike ten miles one way to a very remote campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Unfortunately, it was that twenty-mile round trip camping experience that may have begun the downward spiral with my spine. It was also that trip where I was sitting on the log (the sit that probably herniated the L3–L4 disk causing, in part, my disability today), looked up, and there were 6–9 adorable little screech owls staring down at me. If only back then I had a good, affordable, easy-to-use camera that I carried in my pocket. At least I still have the memory.

Back to the present and to the topic at hand. IDs of the Symphyotrichum genus.

Summer 2020. I discovered iNat. I don't remember how. Maybe I posted a photo of a plant or insect on Facebook and someone linked to it in a comment. I literally have no idea now. Anyway, suddenly my nearly non-existent "field work" opened up from the yard to the world. Well, sort of. This is not field work. It is not the same as handling live specimens of plants. It is not sitting under bright lights with magnifying glasses and microscopes. It is different from visiting herbaria. But at its best, there are excellent photos with IDs by other naturalists who are experts with that particular organism, its commonality in the area, etc. And you people do most of my field work for me. Thank you. There is a place for everyone here.

iNat. Summer 2020, I uploaded a photograph of some leaves (leaves!) growing in my yard (prior to mowing). Somehow, iNat identified them as calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum). Eventually, I discovered it was absolutely a correct ID. So I looked at the About page of the species on iNat which is usually the same as what is in Wikipedia, but it was only a few lines long and uninformative.

Then came floras, specifically Flora of North America North of Mexico. What kind of English are they written in? Botanists have their own language, and boy did I feel stupid. I got fixated on trying to understand terms such as “panicle” and “array” and “inflorescence”. iNat-ers helped on the Forum. And at some point, when I actually did realize I was learning a new language (botanical Latin with an English twist), I stopped trying to understand the terms by using synonyms or adjectives and, instead, just took them at face value. It was also good to realize that they sometimes, or often, serve multiple functions: an “inflorescence” is the group of flowers, and also the groups of flowers within the group of flowers, and also the tiny little group of flowers in the aster flower head. But for the most part, it’s the group of flowers.

Back to the Wikipedia article. I had created and edited on Wikipedia a little bit over the years. Everyone has their own mode of learning. I started my mode in childhood, but it needed rocket science improvements in college. My mode is reading. It starts with reading and always has. If I really want to learn, I then take notes, followed by more writing, regurgitating, reading again, explaining… questioning myself, correcting myself. Okay, yes, I learn maybe a harder way, but it sticks. At least for awhile. So I enhanced the Wikipedia article on Symphyotrichum lateriflorum and became one of the thousands of people we know as “Wikipedia”. "Wikipedia needs an article on this." Okay, start one! "The article on this topic is wrong." Okay, fix it! Absolutely make sure you use reliable sources and cite the facts or your information will be challenged or removed, though. It's in the Wikipedia Manual of Style.

So, while writing that article, then branching out to a few others (pun intended), I learned, and provided a bit of a service, I suppose. If anything, I will almost always be able to identify calico aster, and perhaps iNat knows it even better.

End of part one. Why do I always do this? There was only supposed to be a part 1, and this ain't it.


Ingresado el 04 de enero de 2022 por elizabeth1067 elizabeth1067 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de enero de 2021

Those White American Asters - is it Calico or Bushy or Ontario or Hairy or just plain Small?

I wish I had the answers! Small white Symphyotrichum species. Here's maybe some of what I know.

For the observer/photographer: see this post.

Remember the leaves. Remember the backs of the leaves. Oh please, friends, please remember the leaves. Won't you please think of the backs of the leaves?

Remember the involucres. Those are the backs of the flower heads and are made up of the phyllaries. Phyllaries look like little green fish scales. The involucres hold the flower together. And they with phyllaries are one of the main ways, or perhaps the main way, you (and the identifier) can tell which species it is (besides the leaves... did I mention the backs of the leaves?). If you could only take one photo of an Astereae species, it should be of the back of the flower head showing those phyllaries.

Get close and focused enough (coming from someone whose hands shake) for a good look at the disks. That's the middle part of the flower head (you knew that). Those and the involucres and backs of the leaves tell so much in this genus, the entire tribe actually.

If the computer imaging says it's Symphyotrichum lateriflorum, it probably is, but (no data here) it could also be one of those other (ten thousand) white Astereae (in other genera as well) that have disks that turn from cream or yellow to pink or magenta. For white asters, what I've seen is that the first suggestion by iNat is the genus. A species is nearly always the second suggestion. Identification to genus isn't a bad thing, and without phyllaries and leaves, it may be the best that can be done.

I know that the Description section of the Wikipedia article for Symphyotrichum lateriflorum is pretty comprehensive, with photos. I know that the Description section of the Wikipedia article for Symphyotrichum ontarionis is not as comprehensive (yet), but does have at least some information to help with ID, and has a few good pictures that can help.

I know that it is quite difficult to find information on (and observations of!) Symphyotrichum racemosum, but it has a lot of tiny leaves (don't use that as your sole ID criteria, I just like them). I know that Symphyotrichum dumosum has lots and lots of bracts. And they're pretty cool.

I know that iNat says that the most common misidentification with S. lateriflorum (calico aster) is S. cordifolium, common blue wood aster, which I think is odd (not because it's wrong, but because they are actually very different but can look somewhat alike in photographs).

I know that if your disk florets are open with protruding stamens but are not spreading, and your disks have multiple colors (yellow, pink, magenta), then it's likely not calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) even though the computer ID will probably say it is. It's likely S. urophyllum, S. drummondii, S. cordifolium, or some such thing. You know what would help there? Leaves. Did I mention leaves? Did I mention the backs of the leaves? Phyllaries.

What else? Oh, so much more that I'm sure people much smarter than me could add in the comments.

The biggest thing is that white asters are hard. But (in my opinion) they are also the best. They are a challenge, and if you live in an area where there are many species of white Astereae (regardless of the genus), you have quite the opportunity to learn and teach us! I know it's January. And I know they won't be blooming until late July at the earliest, but there are thousands of observations to view, and maybe a few of them could use IDs.

Oh, and dang, I miss summer.

Thanks for reading this gibberish.

Ingresado el 24 de enero de 2021 por elizabeth1067 elizabeth1067 | 35 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

16 de enero de 2021

Observing American Asters

They are so pretty. Asters. Symphyotrichum. My favorite flowers. As a friend said: "The only genus of any import." My favorite is the calico aster, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum.

But don't they give us headaches when we try to identify them?

Here are a few quick tips for observers of American Asters. With other plants, we would not need to take so many photos, such care in observing, hold our cameras or phones quite as still. But with the Symphyotrichums.... we need to photograph the

  1. Leaves and stems (don't forget those basal/ground leaves!)
  2. The fronts and backs of leaves
  3. Where the leaves attach to the stems
  4. A whole inflorescence or two
  5. The flower heads from the front/top (to see the ray and disk florets), sides (backs of rays, involucres, phyllaries), and back (bracts, involucres, and phyllaries)
  6. Step back and take a photo of the whole plant

They take longer to photograph, but it's worth it!

Ingresado el 16 de enero de 2021 por elizabeth1067 elizabeth1067 | 17 observaciones | 7 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de noviembre de 2020

The more I learn...

I'm studying Calico Aster (if you haven't guessed), Symphyotrichum lateriflorum. The more I read, the less confident I feel with former IDs! Self-confidence in science is a bad thing, perhaps. Just trying to make a mental note of the ones I question, marking them as favorites to go back to later. At least I know which ones are S. lat in my own backyard. :)

Yesterday, I went outside after several days of rain and cold. Most everything has gone to seed. I took off the heads of numerous goldenrods so that today's wind won't cause them to infiltrate areas they haven't already. I meant to get them before they started flying, but the rain got in the way. Or perhaps I should have braved it.

I didn't get any photos of the aster seed heads. I should have. At that time, it didn't occur to me that the upcoming 25-45mph winds will blow them away. Living in Windy-ana has its drawbacks.

I think deer like the young leaves of the calico. It's surprising to go back after a day and see a small plant gone. I hope they enjoyed it, and I'm glad it's perennial.

Have you ever watched a deer eat a dandelion in bloom? One time, I saw one eat each leaf and save the bloom and peduncle for last. Lately, this young buck (second year, I think) has been eating sunflower heads.

This has been a fun summer. My first year with iNat. My first to learn the name of this special sweet little flower I would see every year. Calico Aster. Symphyotrichum lateriflorum. An easy Haiku could be made from its name alone.

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum is the Calico Aster.

Ode to a tiny plant. Ode to an American Aster.

Ingresado el 01 de noviembre de 2020 por elizabeth1067 elizabeth1067 | 26 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario