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Polk County’s most wanted – Plant!

In a joint effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora and fauna of Polk County, Conserving Carolina and botanist/ecologist David Campbell need your help in locating this month’s “Polk County’s Most Wanted—Plant,” the enigmatic Smooth Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve).  

Smooth Blue Aster is a rhizomatous perennial that reaches heights of up to three feet. It has an erect habit that is largely unbranched below the inflorescence (flower head). Stems are round, smooth, and typically light green or blue with a glaucous (whitish) sheen. Leaves on the stem are alternate and clasping and they increase in size lower on the stem and decrease in size closer to the top of the stem. Leaves are oblong to lanceolate, 3-6 inches in length, and the leaf margin (outer edge) is usually entire (smooth) or very weakly toothed. Flowers are pale lavender with a yellow center and relatively numerous.

Although occurring over a fairly broad area throughout eastern and central North America, this is a rare species in North Carolina. Preferred habitats in our region are mesic to dry-mesic deciduous woodlands. The flowering period is from September-October.

This species has not been reported in Polk County since the early twentieth century where it was found near Tryon. This plant should be sought throughout the wooded portions of central and western Polk County. Many other species are similar in appearance; however, the smooth stems, clasping leaves, and woodland habitat should be helpful clues to aid in Smooth Blue Aster’s identification.

If you think that you have found Smooth Blue Aster in Polk County, please contact Pam Torlina at Conserving Carolina by email at pam@conservingcarolina.org, and if you can provide a clear photo, for a definitive confirmation.

Visit Conserving Carolina’s website, conservingcarolina.org/polk-most-wanted, for more information about “Polk County’s Most Wanted” and to download and print a “Pocket Guide” with all of the “Most Wanted” plants, animals and habitats that you can be on the lookout for.

Conserving Carolina, your local land trust, is dedicated to protecting land and water, promoting good stewardship, and creating opportunities for people to enjoy nature. Learn more and become a member at conservingcarolina.org.

 

Submitted by Pam Torlina / Written by David Campbell