Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - New England Aster

The Phactor does not object to taxonomists who attempt to correctly classify organisms, however it nonetheless is annoying when a taxon and a plant's name that you have been using for over 40 years changes. Aster is one of those "know your genera" taxons where the common name and the scientific name are the same, although as nearly always the case the common use of aster is a lot more loose than the botanical use. Aster used to have something like 600 species strewn across N. America and Eurasia, but taxonomists have decided that all but one of the N. American species should be transferred to a series of other genera. So it goes with today's fabulous flower, or rather as is the case with members of the Asteraceae or sunflower family, a fabulous inflorescence of tiny flowers presenting the image of a much larger flower to pollinators and gardeners, the New England Aster, formerly Aster novae-angliae, now Symphyotrichum novae-angliae. Symphyotrichum (sim-fee-oh-try-cum) rolls off the tongue well enough, but it just isn't as familiar as Aster. This is why taxonomists hide away in herbaria in universities, museums, and botanical gardens; people would be kicking them in the shins for messing with their favorite plant names. Ah, but asethetically a New England aster by any other name would still be a massive clump of royal purple color gracing the fall landscape.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

I think they should just change the nomenclature rules -- right now, when they split a genus, whatever species was FIRST described in that genus gets to keep the original name, and everyone else has to get a new one. But I think, when some members of the genus are very well known, they ought to have rights to the original genus name. I mean really, kicking coleus out of the genus Coleus? And New England asters out of Aster?
Just makes me hate taxonomists.