Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Toothed Whitetop Aster - Sericocarpus asteroides   (L.) Britton, Sterns, & Poggenburg
Members of Asteraceae:
Members of Sericocarpus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Asterales » Family Asteraceae
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Author(L.) Britton, Sterns, & Poggenburg
DistributionNearly throughout the Coastal Plain, but rare to absent in the northeastern corner and on the Outer Banks (a record for Roanoke Island, Dare County). Ranges into the Piedmont to an undetermined extent. Note that S. asteroides was split by Nesom in 2021 into a revised S. asteroides and a new S. caespitosus. The latter is a more northerly species that occurs in the Mountains and Piedmont but not in the Coastal Plain. However, no herbarium splits out its S. asteroides collection. Thankfully, Nesom did provide a color county map of the two species, and the map below follows that.

"S. ME and s. VT west to c. OH, south to e. SC, c. GA, w. Panhandle FL, s. AL, and s. MS" (Weakley 2022).
AbundanceCommon over nearly all of the Coastal Plain, but rare to absent in the northeastern corner of the state. Apparently uncommon into the Piedmont, to an undetermined extent (westward).
HabitatXeric/dry to mesic soils of a wide variety of woodlands, such as pine-oak-hickory, oak-hickory-dogwood, Longleaf Pine-oak-Wiregrass, forest openings, logging roads, rocky or gravelly slopes, rock outcrops. Generally in partial sun/shade.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting late May-July.
IdentificationOur species of "whitetop aster" used to be included in the genus Aster. In the field they have a distinct gestalt, due to far fewer ray florets per head (maximum of 6), and these are always white. Toothed Whitetop Aster grows about a foot tall (rarely to 2 feet), and has lance-shaped lower and basal leaves which are toothed (not toothed in our other 2 species). The leaves are dark green above and quite thick and leathery, as are those of S. linifolius, but that species lacks basal leaves (in a rosette), and the stem leaves are quite narrow and not toothed. Both are common and frequently encountered over most of the state. With the split by Nesom (2021), the new S. asteroides can be separated from S. caespitosus by the former being a "Plant with a short, thick, fibrous-rooted rhizome that produces short basal offsets, and also producing long, slender, scale-leaved rhizomes up to 15 cm long, and producing plantlets at their tips; plants in clonal colonies of many interconnected plants". The latter species has a clumped growth form, being a "Plant only with a short, thick, fibrous-rooted rhizome that produces short basal offsets; plants in scattered populations of cespitose individuals" (Weakley 2022).
Taxonomic CommentsFormerly treated as Aster paternus. NOTE: some of our plants produce long slender scale-leaved rhizomes and form colonies--these are S. asteroides and occur almost exclusively in the Coastal Plain. Others produce only short basal offsets, do not form colonies, and occur in the Mountains and Piedmont--these are newly described as S. caespitosus Nesom; see paper in Phytoneuron (2021-33).

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieSame data. RichmondPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieSandhills Game Land, dry longleaf-wiregrass, late June 2015. RichmondPhoto_natural

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