It is that time of year again!
Call me old school but learning from a field guide is still the best way to learn, and that goes double for asters. Between their similarities and the narrow window each year to learn in situ, I just do not have the skills needed to identify them on the spot, or think about which features to focus on.
Is there a good dichotomous key for Northeast aster species? Specifically Symphyotrichum species?
I would avoid the FNA key - it’s pretty out of date by now, and it’s a mess to try to navigate (mostly because of the wide scope). The character-states are not well delineated. It’s a headache to contemplate whether your flower head is truly “campanulate” or “cylindro-campanulate” and whether your plant of interest, invariably featuring a wide spectrum of leaf widths along a developmental gradient, in fact has leaves that are “narrowly lanceolate” or merely “lanceolate”.
Yes the Newcomb’s guide is out of date as well. The paintbrush stroke that is life on this planet how I see it, seems to go double for Asteraceae.
I get all fired up to go out and lock down some species but in the end I always feel a bit lost and uncertain no matter how many photos I take. The variety within a species amongst individuals is both incredibly frustrating and the beauty of the evolution.