Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

For the size of the plant, the inflorescence of Sky Blue Aster (Aster oolentangiensis) is rather large and showy. This species of aster closely resembles Short's Aster (Aster shortii), even though the latter species is a woodland aster. However, the upper leaves of Short's Aster are often narrowly cordate, rather than narrowly lanceolate or linear, and its flowerheads are slightly larger in size. Another similar species, Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis), has alternate leaves that are all sessile, while Sky Blue Aster has lower to middle leaves with petioles. Other asters (Aster spp.) have hairier foliage, or their leaves are narrow throughout, or they have more cordate leaves, or their alternate leaves have toothed margins. Another scientific name of this aster is Aster azureus – as a result, it is sometimes referred to as the Azure Aster. More recently, the scientific name of this species has been changed to Symphyotrichum oolentangiensis. Return
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Description

This herbaceous perennial plant is 1½–3' tall and largely unbranched, except near the inflorescence. The central stem is light green, terete, and glabrous to sparsely short-hairy. Alternate leaves occur along the central stem, becoming shorter and more narrow as they ascend. The lower leaves are up to 3" long and 1½" across; they are narrowly oval to ovate in shape and smooth along their margins. The middle leaves are up to 2½" long and ¾" across; they are narrowly lanceolate to lanceolate in shape and smooth along their margins. The upper leaves are up to 1¼" long and ¼" across; they are linear-oblong in shape and smooth along their margins. The upper leaf surfaces are medium to dark green and glabrous or nearly so, while their lower surfaces are light green and glabrous to short-hairy along the major veins. The petioles of these leaves are up to 2" long, becoming shorter as they ascend the stem – however the upper leaves are sessile. The petioles are light green, concave above and convex below, and glabrous to slightly hairy. In addition to the deciduous alternate leaves, this plant also produces a loose tuft of semi-evergreen basal leaves. These basal leaves are similar in appearance to the lower alternate leaves, except they are more broad (oval to oval-cordate in shape) and their margins are sometimes crenate-serrate. The petioles of basal leaves are up to 3" long. The central stem terminates in a panicle of flowerheads that is ½–1½' long and about one-half as much across. When a plant is in bloom, it often leans to one side because of the weight of the inflorescence.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Sky Blue Aster occurs occasionally in the northern and western halves of Illinois, but it is uncommon or absent elsewhere (see Distribution Map). Habitats include mesic to dry prairies, sand prairies, hill prairies, rocky upland woodlands, upland savannas, upland sandy savannas, woodland borders, sandy meadows, limestone glades, and roadside embankments. This plant is usually found in higher quality natural areas where the original ground flora is still intact. Occasional wildfires or other disturbance that reduce competition from woody vegetation is beneficial in maintaining populations of this plant. Faunal Associations
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , LA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NY , OH , OK , SD , TN , TX , WI (NPIN, 2007)

Canada: ON (NPIN, 2007)

USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N) (NPIN, 2007)

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Perennials 20–150 cm, cespitose; short-rhizomatous or with branched, woody caudices. Stems 1–5+, erect (straight), glabrate to hispidulous, distally pilosulous to strigillose in arrays. Leaves thick, firm, margins entire or crenate-serrate, scabrous, apices mucronate, faces scabrous, abaxial strigose to piloso-strigose or hirsute, adaxial strongly strigose; basal withering by flowering, long-petiolate (petioles slightly winged, bases dilated, sheathing, ciliate), blades ovate to lance-ovate, 40–150(–180) × 10–40(–60) mm, bases ± cordate or rounded to attenuate, margins crenate-serrate to subentire, apices rounded or obtuse to acute; proximal cauline petiolate (petioles narrowly winged, clasping), blades ovate or ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate, 30–130 × 12–70 mm, gradually or ± abruptly reduced distally, bases rounded to attenuate, margins entire, scabrous, apices acute or attenuate, callus-pointed; distal sessile or sometimes short-petiolate and ± winged (appressed or ascending), blades lanceolate or linear-lanceolate to subulate, 5–80 × 1–10 mm, strongly reduced distally (more sharply so on branches), bases attenuate to cuneate or ± rounded, margins entire. Heads in open, paniculiform arrays, branches ascending, stiff, sometimes long-arching and peduncles secund, ± ridged, densely leafy with small, ± appressed branch leaves, ± strigose. Peduncles ascending, 0.2–6 cm, glabrate, densely bracteate, bracts linear-subulate, scabrous- or ciliate-margined, often revolute, grading with phyllaries. Involucres campanulate to cylindro-campanulate, 4.5–8 mm. Phyllaries in (3–)4–6 series, appressed or outer slightly spreading, lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, strongly unequal, bases indurate 1 / 2 – 3 / 4 , margins scarious, erose, hyaline, ciliolate, apical green zones diamond-shaped, apices acute to acuminate or caudate (then tips often involute), mucronulate to apiculate, faces glabrous. Ray florets (10–)13–20(–25); corollas usually pale to azure blue to violet-purple, rarely rosy, white or bluish white), laminae (5–)8–12(–14) × 1.4–1.7 mm. Disc florets (15–)20–25(–30); corollas light yellow turning deep purple, 4–5 mm, tubes much shorter than narrowly funnelform throats, lobes triangular to lanceolate, 0.4–0.7 mm (lobes sparsely hairy). Cypselae dull purple or stamineous with purple streaks, oblong-obovoid, ± compressed, 1.8–2 mm, 4–5-nerved, faces glabrate to sparsely strigose; pappi cream or slightly rose-tinged, 3–4 mm. 2n = 32.
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Overall this is an erect plant. (UW, 2009)

Flowers The involucre (bracts surrounding the flowers) is inversely conical. The bracts are short, green-tipped, and appressed. The heads are racemose or panicled and medium-sized. Rays are bright blue. (Peattie, 1930) Bloom colors are white or violet. (NPIN, 2007) The heads of the flowers radiate. They have 10-25 blue to pink rays. Bracts (phyllaries) have short, dark, and diamond-shaped tips. The inflorescence is a loose, branched cluster. (UW, 2009)

Leaves are practically entire. The lower are heart-shaped and on long petioles. The others are sessile and linear or lanceolate. The topmost are very small and all rough. (Peattie, 1930) Leaves are mostly toward the bottom of the stem. Leaves are thick, stiff, and usually entire. The lower leaves are long and often winged stalked. The base is usually heart-shaped, and the upper surface rough. The upper leaves are lance-like, and stalkless but not clasping. (UW, 2009)

Stems are rough and racemose-compound above, with rigid and slender branches. (Peattie, 1930)

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Size

Plant is 2'-3' tall. (UW, 2009)

Flowers The flower head is 3/4"-1 1/3" wide. (UW, 2009)

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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Aster oolentangiensis Riddell, W. J. Med. Phys. Sci. 8: 495. 1835; A. azureus Lindley; A. azureus var. poaceus (E. S. Burgess) Fernald; A. azureus var. scabrior Engelmann ex E. S. Burgess; A. capillaceus E. S. Burgess; A. poaceus E. S. Burgess; A. vernalis Engelmann ex E. S. Burgess
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Sky Blue Aster occurs occasionally in the northern and western halves of Illinois, but it is uncommon or absent elsewhere (see Distribution Map). Habitats include mesic to dry prairies, sand prairies, hill prairies, rocky upland woodlands, upland savannas, upland sandy savannas, woodland borders, sandy meadows, limestone glades, and roadside embankments. This plant is usually found in higher quality natural areas where the original ground flora is still intact. Occasional wildfires or other disturbance that reduce competition from woody vegetation is beneficial in maintaining populations of this plant. Faunal Associations
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Habitat constitutes full to partial sun, dry to moderate moisture, prairies and meadows, and in sandy, loamy soil. (UW, 2009)
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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Sky Blue Aster in Illinois

Aster oolentangiensis (Sky Blue Aster)
(Bees suck nectar or collect pollen, flies & beetles suck nectar or feed on pollen, other insects suck nectar; most observations are from Reed, otherwise they are Hilty and Krombein et al. as indicated below)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Bombini): Bombus affinis, Bombus fervida, Bombus impatiens, Bombus vagans; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina sp.; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes dentiventris olg, Melissodes rustica, Melissodes subillata, Svastra obliqua obliqua; Megachilidae (Coelioxini): Coelioxys rufitarsis; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile latimanus, Megachile relativa

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea, Agapostemon texanus texanus, Agapostemon virescens, Augochlorella striata, Augochloropsis metallica metallica, Halictus confusus, Halictus ligatus, Lasioglossum sp., Lasioglossum lineatulus, Lasioglossum pectoralis, Lasioglossum pilosus, Lasioglossum pruinosus, Lasioglossum rohweri, Lasioglossum vierecki; Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes simulans armatus cp olg; Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena asteris cp olg, Andrena hirticincta cp olg, Andrena nubecula cp olg, Andrena simplex cp olg (Re, Kr); Andrenidae (Panurginae): Heterosarus nebrascensis

Wasps
Vespidae (Eumeninae): Ancistrocerus adiabatus

Ants
Formicidae: Unidentified species

Flies
Syrphidae: Epistrophe emarginata, Eristalis arbustorum, Eristalis dimidiatus, Eristalis stipator, Eristalis tenax, Eristalis transversus, Eupeodes sp., Helophilus fasciatus, Helophilus latifrons, Sphaerophoria sp.; Bombyliidae: Exoprosopa caliptera, Sparnopolius sp.; Conopidae: Zodion sp.; Tachinidae: Archytas sp.

Butterflies
Pieridae: Colias sp.

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Polites peckius (H)

Moths
Ctenuchidae: Cisseps fulvicollis

Beetles
Chrysomelidae: Diabrotica sp.; Meloidae: Epicauta pensylvanica, Luperaltica nigripalpis

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Blooming is September-October. (Peattie, 1930) The plant blooms August-October. (UW, 2009)
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Life Expectancy

This is a perennial. (UW, 2009)
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Symphyotrichum oolentangiense

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: TNR - Not Yet Ranked

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: T5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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The synonym italicized and indented below is listed by the U.S. federal government or a state. Common names are from state and federal lists. In New York Aster oolentangiensis, sky-blue aster is listed as Endangered. In Tennessee Aster oolentangiensis, sky-blue aster is listed as Special Concern. (USDA PLANTS, 2009)
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Notes

Comments

Symphyotrichum oolentangiense hybridizes with S. drummondii and S. laeve. Two color morphs, Aster azureus Lindley forma incarnatus Farwell and "forma albidus" (the latter not validly published and incorrectly attributed to Steyermark by M. L. Fernald 1950), have been described but are not recognized here.
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