Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Small White Aster - Symphyotrichum racemosum   (Elliott) Nesom
Members of Asteraceae:
Members of Symphyotrichum with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Asterales » Family Asteraceae
Author(Elliott) Nesom
DistributionPiedmont and Coastal Plain, rare on the Outer Banks (Roanoke Island); absent from the Sandhills proper. Taxon editors have mapped only specimens labeled S. racemosum and Aster vimineus. There are a number of similar species, and biologists and botanists perhaps simply overlook this reasonably common species; the many holes in the range map are certainty artifacts of collecting.

ME to IN, MO, and OK, south to northern FL and TX.
AbundanceFairly common to frequent, to locally common, in most of the Coastal Plain and into the eastern half of the Piedmont. Rare to uncommon in the western Piedmont, and absent in the Mountains (and also the Sandhills). It is clearly less common in most areas than is the similar S. lateriflorum.
HabitatMoist to wet, sometimes dry, soils of fresh marshes, fresh-tidal marshes, margins of swamp forests, bays and depression ponds, meadows, roadside ditches, damp places in powerlines. Seldom found in upland habitats.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting September - mid-November.
IdentificationSmall White Aster is rather aptly named, as its floral heads are as small as any in the genus in NC. However, it makes up for size with an abundance of heads, which occur along the plant's long branches, often only along one side of each branch. The bushy aspect of the plant is similar to S. dumosum, but the bracts on the branches are longer and acute to sharply pointed, not blunt to acute. White Panicle Aster (S. lanceolatum) and Simmonds's Aster (S. simmondsii) have distinctly longer ray florets; Frost Aster (S. pilosum) is generally densely hairy (vs. glabrate) and has longer ray florets also. Calico Aster (S. lateriflorum) is a common wetland associate; its stem leaves are clearly toothed and wider than those in Small White Aster, and its disk florets are purplish to red and not yellow; it is usually not as overall bushy-looking, and its flowers are more often along fewer branches.
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.

A synonym, long in use, is Aster vimineus. Two varieties of this species occur in the state, the widespread nominate one and the very rare and poorly known var. subdumosum.

Other Common Name(s)Smooth White Aster, Smallflower White Aster, Small White American-aster
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