Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Two Cool Asters

Early September in Shawnee State Forest offers Asteraceae galore; the various diverse members of the sunflower family. This group is huge and includes a fantastic array of species from tiny to huge. It can be a tough bunch to master, partly because there are so many species, and also because lots of species look alike.
I saw scores of different species in this family over the weekend in Shawnee, and wanted to share two especially noteworthy species.
The striking Golden-aster, Chrysopsis mariana. This is not a true aster; hence the hyphenated common name. Chrysopsis is closely related to the goldenrods, and is rather rare and local in Ohio. It is found sparingly in about seven couties in the southernmost regions of the state.

I don't know if this one is on the radar screens of the gardening crowd but if it isn't, it should be. Golden-aster is extraordinarily showy and grows in some pretty rough stuff, substrate-wise. This group was on a barren rocky bank that's dry as a bone.

A great whopping rarity, this one. It's Creeping Aster, Eurybia surculosa. This is the only known Ohio site, and it is essentially one big clone covering a few dozen square feet. The common name stems from its habitat of spreading via rhizomes. The colonies push forth lots of strap-like basal leaves - slightly reminiscent of small trout-lily (Erythronium) leaves, but few flowering stems. This is a typical strategy of plants that spread primarily by roots; little energy is put into producing flowers. This colony is high and dry on a ridgetop, growing amongst Pitch Pine, Pinus rigida.

Another excellent candidate for the nursery trade. I'm guessing that most nurseries simply aren't aware of some of these beautiful native species that are quite hardy and should grow easily. It'd be nice if they would quit selling all of the nasty invasives and invest more effort into producing native plants for the trade. Creeping Aster is diminutive; this flowering stem is perhaps eight inches tall. The overall effect of a colony is striking, though, with the abundant basal leaves interspersed with occasional flowering stalks. This day, the sun was glaring and made photos a bit tough. The flower color is a rich pinkish-purple and the disk corolla (center) is bright yellow.
This colony was discovered about eight years by Daniel Boone, an outstanding field botanist from Cincinnati. Prior to that there was only one collection in Ohio, from 1954 and also from Scioto County. It is possible that Boone relocated the original population nearly 50 years later. Whatever the case, this remains our only know Creeping Aster population and it is also the only one north of the Ohio River. Another species in a long list of Shawnee State Forest mega-rarities.

1 comment:

Regina said...

Thanks for the pix!