I wanted to ask a question to see if the Symphyotrichum people (or more) know a source or sources that I can use for the descriptions given for the varieties of S. lateriflorum. I have found taxons, distribution information, but no descriptions – what makes them different from the species. (I also found in FNA that the taxon has work to be done on it: “[m]uch genetic and phenotypic variation is encountered within the complex; a thorough study is needed before a coherent taxonomy can be achieved.” So I wonder if this means there really is no answer to my question.)
Here’s what I have so far and have added to the Wikipedia article in its own section, but when I do update it to include a better description of the species itself, I’d like to include what makes the varieties.
S. lateriflorum species is divided into the following infraspecies:
S. lateriflorum var. angustifolium (Wiegand) G.L.Nesom – narrow-leaved calico aster, present in Ontario, Canada, as well as the U.S. region of New England except Rhode Island, and in the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin. NatureServe lists it as possibly imperiled (S2) in Kentucky.
S. lateriflorum var. flagellare (Shinners) G.L.Nesom – present in Oklahoma and Texas.
S. lateriflorum var. horizontale (Desf.) G.L.Nesom – present in all U.S. states east of the Mississippi River excluding Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Also present west of the Mississippi in Minnesota, Missouri, and Arkansas. NatureServe lists it as imperiled (S2) in New Jersey.
S. lateriflorum var. lateriflorum (L.) Á.Löve & D.Löve – calico aster. Range is in the same provinces and states as the parent species as shown in the Distribution section of this article. NatureServe lists it as critically imperiled (S1) in Nebraska and Kansas.
S. lateriflorum var. spatelliforme (E.S.Burgess) G.L.Nesom – present only in Florida.
S. lateriflorum var. tenuipes (Wiegand) G.L.Nesom – slender-stalked calico aster. Present in North America only in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island, and in the U.S. states of Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.
According to Flora of North America, “[m]uch genetic and phenotypic variation is encountered within the complex; a thorough study is needed before a coherent taxonomy can be achieved.”
Additionally, there was a variety previously defined but now considered a non-accepted synonym of the species itself - S. lateriflorum var. hirsuticaule. I read somewhere not too long ago that it was a misidentification, I think by Lindley who originally defined it, and that it was S. lateriflorum with perhaps a few different but not distinct characteristics. I can’t for the life of me find where I read that, but I know it was online somewhere. It may have been in a scanned image of a book or on a website itself.
Finally, what would make a var. lateriflorum different from simply the species? Is that technically the variety for all the individuals that would not fall into the other varieties so that eventually, if the IDs on iNat could be sorted out into varieties, would all S. lateriflorum not in another variety go in that one?
I hope I explained myself at least semi-clearly. That was multiple questions.