Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Purplestem Aster - Symphyotrichum puniceum   (L.) A. Love & D. Love
Members of Asteraceae:
Members of Symphyotrichum with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Asterales » Family Asteraceae
Author(L.) A. Love & D. Love
DistributionMountains and Piedmont; a short disjunct to "swamp on Roanoke River" in Halifax County; scarce in the eastern Piedmont, with records lacking for many counties there.

Lab. to B.C., south to GA, AL, MO, and NE.
AbundanceFairly common to locally common in the Mountains and the western and central Piedmont. Rare to locally uncommon in the eastern third of the Piedmont, and barely east to Halifax County near the Fall Line.
HabitatWet to moist soils of marshes, openings in brownwater bottomlands and floodplain forests, river and stream shores, ditches, wet meadows, bogs.
See also Habitat Account for General Open, Wet Herblands
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting September-October.
IdentificationPurplestem Aster is robust, up to 7 feet tall, usually several stems together that are red-purple in color. Stems are coarsely hairy (sometimes only hairy in narrow lines). Leaves are lance-shaped to elliptic, stalkless and clasping, sparsely toothed, rough above, 4-7 inches long, and only slightly reduced in size up the stem. Inflorescences are wide-branching, with large heads of lavender-blue to purplish rays and yellow disks. Elliott's Aster (S. elliottii) is similar but occurs only on the outer Coastal Plain; it has glabrous stems and non-clasping leaves, and its flowers are generally pink to pink-lavender and not blue-colored.
Taxonomic CommentsNOTE: The genus Aster was examined by G.L. Nesom (1994), who determined that it was composed of a number of discrete genera (a few of which were already split off by authors as Sericocarpus, Ionactis, etc.). The earliest available name for North American "Aster" is Symphyotrichum, a name regrettably long and hard to spell.

The taxon in NC is the nominate variety. However, Weakley (2022) also lists a
var. 1, an undescribed entity found in a bog(s) in the northern mountains, which is under study by Poindexter and Weakley. The website editors choose not to include it as a valid taxon just yet.

Other Common Name(s)Swamp Aster, Red-stalk Aster, Red-stem Aster
State RankS4 [S4S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpOBL link
USACE-empOBL link
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B.A. SorriePiedmont, Sandhills Game Land, Diggs Tract, edge of floodplain of Pee Dee River, Oct 2015. RichmondPhoto_natural

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