Transformational Gardening

Disclaimer: Foraging can be fun, rewarding and provide health benefits. As a novice forager, I will be sharing my foraging experiences. However, in order to be safe, always consult with local foraging experts and guidebooks before beginning foraging. Children should learn to forage safely by being guided by experienced adults. Never ingest anything unless you are certain of the identification and safety of the plant. Some plant species are inedible and some are poisonous.

Purplestem Aster (Swamp Aster, Bristly Aster) (Symphyotrichum puniceum) (Synonyms: Aster puniceus, Aster puniceum): Images

Date Location Notes Images
September 15, 2011 Southeastern, New Hampshire I tried to use the book, Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada to “weed” through 66 different asters to find the one that matches these pictures. It is a lot more difficult than it might seem. The way the book uses the terms, cordate-clasping and auriculate-clasping adds to the confusion (since they claim this plant is strong auriculate-clasping, but my pictures and other “official” pictures of this plant do not seem to meet the exact definition of those terms).

I narrowed my search down to three plants:
  • New York Aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii)
  • White Panicle Aster (Eastern Lined Aster) (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum var. simplex)
  • Purplestem Aster (Swamp Aster, Bristly Aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum)
I eliminated New York Aster because its stem is either hairless or has short, fine hairs. This plant has medium-long, spreading hairs on the stem.

The White Panicle Aster can have white, blue or lavender flowers and the simplex variation that does grow in New Hampshire has leaves up to 3.5 cm wide. If the leaves would be considered not auriculate-clasping, this plant would be a possible match. However, White Panicle Aster flower bracts range from 3 to 6 mm, but this plant has flower bracts that are 7 mm. On the White Stem Panicle, the bracts are imbricate (they overlap like shingles), but in this plant, very few of the bracts overlap.

The rays of the on the White Stem Panicle flower grow 4.5 to 12 mm, but this plant has rays that grow over 13 mm. The stem on White Panicle Aster grows up to 1.5 meters (although some books say that the stem can be up to 8 feet long), but the stem on this plant is 1.7 meters. The stem on White Panicle Aster is “pubescent in lines above” (whatever the @*#%! that means! -- I will guess that it means that there are single lines of hairs on the upper part of the stem only and then the rest of the stem ... it’s anyone’s guess).

Purplestem Aster seemed the better match other than two issues:
  1. The leaves do not appear to me to be auriculate-clasping (earlike lobes at the base of the leaf encircling the stem). The leaves appear to be slightly decurrent (extending downward along the stem) and only slightly clasping. Because the leaf extends downward along the stem, it makes it appear to more strongly clasp the stem. Here is a picture from the USDA Site of Purplestem Aster. If you look at a picture of the leaf not on the stem from the University of Wisconsin Herbarium, you can see that the leaf does not have significant lobes to strongly clasp the stem.
  2. The other issue is that Purplestem Aster is supposed to has 30 to 60 flower rays per flower. Many of the flowers I saw had in the mid 20’s for the number of rays. I think some may be falling off, though. I'll go back and look at more flowers tomorrow before I can be sure if these flowers usually have 30 to 60 flower rays.
Date Location Notes Images
September 16, 2011 Southeastern, New Hampshire I found Purplestem Aster in a totally different location. The plants found yesterday lined a path that ran along a swamp. The plants found today were on the side of a path that goes 1 mile up a hill. However, often water trickles down parts of the path in the Spring and on rainy days. Notice that the leaves are a bit more auriculate-clasping than the plants found yesterday. Also, notice that there are over 40 rays on some of the flowers.