Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Daisy Family, Part 2

Asters and goldenrod
Asters and goldenrod drape the summer-fall landscape in New England as the final conversion of sunlight to sustenance. Their colors signal Nature's self-appreciation, and a turning point from the season of increase.
Bee and butterfly harvesting goldenrod flowers
Each tiny goldenrod flower creates abundance for its pollinators.
A pollen collector en route to fertilize another flower
Cross-pollination strengthens the species. Nectar rewards the servants of fertilization. All manner of opportunists come by.


The genius of the flower, its beauty and collaborations, orchestrates the workshop of seed production. Its integral parts become the seed itself, the packaging, the means of nourishment and dispersal. The alluring petals drop away.
Seed head of Seaside goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens
The seeds stand ready to extend the plant to new generations and to new territories.
Flax-leaved stiff-aster Ionactis linariifolia on quarry wall
A look down the face of a quarry wall reveals how improbably some seeds will take hold.
Chipmunk, an ecological agent on the quarry wall
Winds carry seeds to distant crevices. And from another partnership chipmunks barter their energies with plants for mutual increase.
White-topped aster, Sericocarpus asteroides
Both  asters and goldenrods have niches in the Composite family Asteraceae. Their corollas of disc florets and ray florets point to their kinship with star-like flowers, botanical asteroids.
Schreber's wood-aster, Eurybia schreberi
Heath American-aster, Symphyotrichum ericoides
The genus Aster per se no longer exists in modern taxonomy. The four different species of asters portrayed so far represent four different genera, according to modern complexities of research and nomenclature.

If you aim to educate yourself for a comprehensive acquaintance with the asters on Halibut Point you have to roll up your sleeves from a botanist's perspective. You have to come to terms with the lexicon: The pseudanthium, or capitulum, is a special type of inflorescence characteristic of the Asteraceae. The disc flowers in its center are actinomorphic, the ray flowers at its periphery zygomorphic. The whorl of bracts below the pseudanthium forms an involucre.
Then the field is yours.
I believe I have identified sixteen different species at Halibut Point. Perhaps I'll get a friendly challenge to meet in an herbarium or a floriferous pasture. I have backup photos-and a lot to learn.
New England aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
On the other hand, you may celebrate the simple floral delights that captivate children of all ages.

Downy goldenrod, Solidago puberula, against a quarry wall
In some ways studying our local goldenrod clan is more straightforward than the asters, as there are only two genera. But the distinguishing plant traits can be even more subtle.
Grass-leaved goldenrod, Euthamia graminifolia
 I believe I have recognized nine different species of goldenrods. I'm learning how to document the anatomy.
Adding a new plant to the list makes for a great day, walking about in paradise.

1 comment:

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