Symphyotrichum questions or answers, part 1

I've been on an ID binge recently (some people watch Netflix all day... some people are out in the field... some people work…). I am learning, and likely always will be learning, the Symphyotrichum genus. Caveat is that I am not a botanist, never will be, and my field work is very limited. But I love this genus with most of my heart and soul. Crazy, I know.

I discovered it in my yard, beginning my self-taught non-career of this genus there. Interest in botany began perhaps in the mountains of North Carolina some decades ago... back in the days when I could hike to the top of Grandfather Mountain, or even better, hike ten miles one way to a very remote campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Unfortunately, it was that twenty-mile round trip camping experience that may have begun the downward spiral with my spine. It was also that trip where I was sitting on the log (the sit that probably herniated the L3–L4 disk causing, in part, my disability today), looked up, and there were 6–9 adorable little screech owls staring down at me. If only back then I had a good, affordable, easy-to-use camera that I carried in my pocket. At least I still have the memory.

Back to the present and to the topic at hand. IDs of the Symphyotrichum genus.

Summer 2020. I discovered iNat. I don't remember how. Maybe I posted a photo of a plant or insect on Facebook and someone linked to it in a comment. I literally have no idea now. Anyway, suddenly my nearly non-existent "field work" opened up from the yard to the world. Well, sort of. This is not field work. It is not the same as handling live specimens of plants. It is not sitting under bright lights with magnifying glasses and microscopes. It is different from visiting herbaria. But at its best, there are excellent photos with IDs by other naturalists who are experts with that particular organism, its commonality in the area, etc. And you people do most of my field work for me. Thank you. There is a place for everyone here.

iNat. Summer 2020, I uploaded a photograph of some leaves (leaves!) growing in my yard (prior to mowing). Somehow, iNat identified them as calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum). Eventually, I discovered it was absolutely a correct ID. So I looked at the About page of the species on iNat which is usually the same as what is in Wikipedia, but it was only a few lines long and uninformative.

Then came floras, specifically Flora of North America North of Mexico. What kind of English are they written in? Botanists have their own language, and boy did I feel stupid. I got fixated on trying to understand terms such as “panicle” and “array” and “inflorescence”. iNat-ers helped on the Forum. And at some point, when I actually did realize I was learning a new language (botanical Latin with an English twist), I stopped trying to understand the terms by using synonyms or adjectives and, instead, just took them at face value. It was also good to realize that they sometimes, or often, serve multiple functions: an “inflorescence” is the group of flowers, and also the groups of flowers within the group of flowers, and also the tiny little group of flowers in the aster flower head. But for the most part, it’s the group of flowers.

Back to the Wikipedia article. I had created and edited on Wikipedia a little bit over the years. Everyone has their own mode of learning. I started my mode in childhood, but it needed rocket science improvements in college. My mode is reading. It starts with reading and always has. If I really want to learn, I then take notes, followed by more writing, regurgitating, reading again, explaining… questioning myself, correcting myself. Okay, yes, I learn maybe a harder way, but it sticks. At least for awhile. So I enhanced the Wikipedia article on Symphyotrichum lateriflorum and became one of the thousands of people we know as “Wikipedia”. "Wikipedia needs an article on this." Okay, start one! "The article on this topic is wrong." Okay, fix it! Absolutely make sure you use reliable sources and cite the facts or your information will be challenged or removed, though. It's in the Wikipedia Manual of Style.

So, while writing that article, then branching out to a few others (pun intended), I learned, and provided a bit of a service, I suppose. If anything, I will almost always be able to identify calico aster, and perhaps iNat knows it even better.

End of part one. Why do I always do this? There was only supposed to be a part 1, and this ain't it.


Posted on 04 de janeiro de 2022, 03:10 AM by elizabeth1067 elizabeth1067


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