Monday, November 5, 2007

Ionactis nee Aster

Spent the day down in the extreme southern reaches of the state, hard against the shores of the Ohio River. The trees were looking splendid; the forests were a riot of color. Very little else was, as the flowering plants have largely passed on and out for the season. Even the singing insects have greatly diminished, and with the cold nights fast approaching we'll not hear their serenades for much longer.

The view from one of the most spectacular promontories overlooking the Ohio River Valley, near Portsmouth in Scioto County. Yon hills are good ole Kentuck; the Ohio River is smack against their base. Like the massive water body on our northern boundary, the valley of our mightiest river creates its own atmosphere. I took this as a brewing storm bluffed and blustered with spits of rain, while the sunshine poured through in the distance. Nothing much came of the threatening weather, and we remained dry. Did make for some spectacular skies, though.

With the paucity of flowering plants - it is November! - I was excited to come across this last gasp of blooming chlorophyll. Stiff-leaved Aster, one of the most sensational in a sensational group of plants. Their bushy, near evergreen foliage capped with showy flowers makes this one worth a look. It's also rather the rarity, being confined to a handful of Ohio's southernmost counties.The nomenclature has gotten ugly, though. Many of us know these plants as "Aster", the formerly huge catch-all dumping ground for a big assemblage of plants that are generally easily recognized as asters. No more - they've been cut and dissected into pieces, and the new names are tongue-tyers compared to the former two-syllable moniker. This one you may have learned as Aster linariifolius. It is now Ionactis linariifolius. No complaints here. I feel that Aster was grossly oversimplified, and many of the groups, like this one, warrant generic level recognition.

Besides, for many people it isn't that important what some propellerheads want to call it - the plant is still stunning by any name!

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