#212-115 Keevil Crescent

Saskatoon, SK  S7N 4P2


[published as:  Harms, Vernon L.  2002.  Where have all our Asters gone?  Blue Jay 60(3): 151-152].


Where have all our asters gone?  Well the plants are still here, but their scientific names have been changed.  Modern taxonomists no longer place any of Saskatchewan’s 16 native aster species into the genus, Aster, as previously, but have reclassified them into five different genera, although mostly under Symphyotrichum.  Numerous plant taxonomic revisions and name changes have recently been made, mostly associated with the ongoing Flora of North America (FNA) Project and John Kartesz’ Biota of North America Project (BONAP).²  Changes for many plants of the Saskatoon area were given in my recent on the flora of Peturrson Ravine, article in the September 2001 Blue Jay.¹  As a non-expert on Aster nomenclature, I will not try to discuss the reasons, or pros and cons, regarding the innovations.  Suffice it to say that they are generally accepted and will likely be reflected in future floral manuals.


The scientific name changes for our Saskatchewan asters are briefly summarized below:


Common Name                       Former Latin Name    New Latin Name

Western or Ascending Aster      Aster ascendens           Symphyotrichum ascendens

Boreal or Bog Aster                  Aster borealis              Symphyotrichum boreale

Rayless Aster                           Aster brachyactis         Symphyotrichum ciliatum

Lindley’s Blue Aster                  Aster ciliolatus             Symphyotrichum ciliolatum

Showy Aster                             Aster conspicuus          Eurybia conspicua

Eaton’s Aster                            Aster eatonii                Symphyotrichum eatonii

Tufted White Prairie Aster         Aster ericoides             Symphyotrichum ericoides

   var. pansus                    var. pansum

Creeping White Prairie Aster     Aster falcatus               Symphyotrichum falcatum

                                                   var. commutatus             var. commutatus

Western Willow Aster               Aster hesperius            Symphyotrichum lanceolatum

     var. hesperium

Smooth Blue Aster                    Aster laevis                  Symphyotrichum laeve

Large Northern Aster                Aster modestus             Canadanthus modestus

Few-flowered Aster                  Aster pauciflorus         Almutaster pauciflorus

Purple-stemmed Aster               Aster puniceus             Symphyotrichum puniceum

Eastern Willow Aster                Aster simplex                Symphyotrichum lanceolatum

                                                                                         var. lanceolatum

Flat-topped White Aster             Aster umbellatus          Doellingeria umbellata

                                       var. pubens                    var. pubens

White Upland Aster                   Aster ptarmicoides       Solidago ptarmicoides


So what does this really mean to the average naturalist?  Not necessarily very much.  The plants themselves remain unchanged, and we may continue to call them by the same common names as before.  Scientific names have much value in “pinning down” exactly what actually is any particular plant that is being referred to, which is important because of the multiplicity and non-standardization of plant common names.  The above summary of name changes for our “asters” may help readers to avoid confusion when confronted with different scientific names.



¹ Harms, V.L.  2001.  Vascular plants of the Petursson Ravine area along the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon.  Blue Jay 59(3): 134-152.

² Kartesz, J.T.  1999.  A Synonymized Checklist and Atlas with Biological Attributes for the Vascular Flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland.  First Edition.  In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham.  Synthesis of North American Flora, Version 1.0.  North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC, U.S.A.