Aster sp.   Michaelmas Daisy CC DD N

Aster sp

There was a time in my early botanical life when I believed that with a good reference book you could identify anything you found in the wild. All Michaelmas daisies were dutifully recorded as Aster novi-belgii in those days. Since Stace identifies a few more than just the A. novi-belgii which he calls "Confused Michaelmas Daisy", more work clearly needed to be done to separate these plants. As I tried all I found was that they seemed to merge seamlessly into one another with no boundaries and even plants in the same habitat and apparent population had different characteristics.

Under these circumstances you call for help. Unfortunately my first expert had the same problems and couldn't help at all. The second had been trying for some time to get to grips with genus but had declared it impossible at the moment. Even distinguished referees will often send the plants back as "probably" Aster x salignus (Common Michaelmas daisy) so I have reluctantly added this genus to a list which includes Hawkweeds, Dandelions and Brambles as plants I can't identify without top quality botanical help. We spent an afternoon looking at the different flowerheads of the many Asters on these marshes but came to no conclusions about their identity. It's probably Aster x salignus but who knows?

If you are a WFS wild flower diarist and you want to record a Michaelmas daisy I would guess Aster x salignus because I am beginning to believe that I've never actually seen Aster novi-belgii. I'm not sure how confused A. novi-belgii is being a Michaelmas daisy but I doubt it could be as confused as me.

Volume 4 of Flora of Great Britain and Ireland by Peter Sell and Gina Murell is out in early 2006 and the Asters should be included so next year I'll buy it and have another go.

Postscript: Vol 4 of Flora of Great Britain is out and I've bought it. Having studied the bits about Michaelmas Daisies I'm none the wiser.

Porthmadog estuary, Lleyn Peninsula, North Wales, 6th October 2005

Added on December 19th 2005, updated 19th October 2008, updated Feb 28th 2010

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