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Symphyotrichum georgianum (Alexander) NesomGeorgia Aster
Federal Protection: No US federal protection
State Protection: Threatened
Global Rank: G3
State Rank: S3
Element Locations Tracked in Biotics: Yes
SWAP High Priority Species (SGCN): Yes
Element Occurrences (EOs) in Georgia: 134
Habitat Summary for element in Georgia: Upland oak-hickory-pine forests and openings; sometimes with Echinacea laevigata or over amphibolite
Perennial herb forming colonies by the spread of rhizomes (underground stems). Stems 20 - 40 inches (50 - 100 cm) tall, roughly hairy, with a few spreading branches. Leaves are 0.8 - 2.8 inches (2 - 7 cm) long and 0.4 - 0.8 inches (1 - 2 cm) wide, alternate, thick, with roughly hairy surfaces, pointed tips, and bases that clasp the stem. The flower heads are more than 2 inches (4 - 6 cm) wide, with bright purple ray flowers, white to lavender disk flowers (that turn red or tan with age), and purple-tipped stamens that produce white pollen. Four whorls of narrow green involucral bracts form a cup (the involucre) that surround the underside of the flower head that is 0.3 - 0.5 inch (8 - 12 mm) high; the bracts are covered with hairs and tiny glands. Fruits are about 0.1 inch (2.5 - 4 mm) long, dry, seed-like, and hairy.
Late Purple Aster / Common Clasping Aster (Symphyotrichum patens) has much smaller heads, 1.2 - 1.8 inch (3 - 4.5 cm) across, with pale blueish-purple ray flowers, yellow disk flowers, and yellow-tipped stamens producing yellow pollen; its involucre is usually less than 0.3 inch (5.5 - 8.5 mm) high and, though hairy, lacks glands.
Eight species of Symphyotrichum are rare in Georgia:
Symphyotrichum georgianum (Georgia Aster) occurs in edges and openings in upland oak-hickory-pine forests, Piedmont prairies, and roadsides and utility rights-of-way through these habitats; usually over amphibolite or other mafic bedrock. For more information, see: https://www.georgiabiodiversity.org/natels/profile?es_id=19402
Symphyotrichum laeve var. laeve (Smooth Aster) occurs in moist hardwood forests in circumneutral soil in northwest Georgia. For more information, see: http://beta.floranorthamerica.org/Symphyotrichum_laeve_var._laeve
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster) occurs in Coosa Valley prairies in northwest Georgia and in blackland prairies in middle Georgia. For more information, see: http://beta.floranorthamerica.org/Symphyotrichum_novae-angliae
Symphyotrichum phlogifolium (Phlox-leaved Aster) occurs in moist hardwood forests over basic soil in north Georgia. For more information, see: http://beta.floranorthamerica.org/Symphyotrichum_phlogifolium
Symphyotrichum praealtum (Willow-leaf Aster) occurs in lowland forests over limestone in northwest and southwest Georgia. For more information, see: http://beta.floranorthamerica.org/Symphyotrichum_praealtum
Symphyotrichum pratense (Barrens Silky Aster) occurs on limestone glades in northwest and southwest GeorgiaFor more information, see: http://beta.floranorthamerica.org/Symphyotrichum_pratense
Edges and openings in rocky, upland oak-hickory-pine forests; former prairies, woodlands, and savannas; and roadsides and rights-of-way through these habitats. Usually growing in circumneutral soils developed over mafic bedrock.
Georgia Aster was formerly a species of prairies and woodland edges and requires full or near-full sun to flower and produce seed. Currently, it reproduces primarily by the spread of rhizomes, which send up new stems at the tips, forming colonies. The lack of sexual reproduction in the wild is not fully understood but may be due to the combination of loss of sunny habitats and the fragmentation of populations. Since Georgia Aster flowers require cross-pollination in order to set seed, and since most populations consist of clones of the same individual, there is little opportunity for cross-pollination in most populations. In cultivation, Georgia Aster plants produce abundant seeds which readily germinate.
Surveys are best conducted during flowering (late September–mid-November). Earlier in the season, Georgia Aster's thick, rough-hairy leaves with inrolled margins and clasping leaf bases are useful for identification but are very similar to those of Late Purple Aster / Common Clasping Aster (Symphyotrichum patens).
Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
Fire suppression. Conversion of habitat to developments, fields, pastures, highways, and pine plantations. Right-of-way maintenance practices such as broadcast use of herbicides and poorly timed grading and mowing. Invasion by exotic pest plants. Canopy closure and encroachment by woody plants.
Georgia Aster is ranked S3 by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, indicating that the species is vulnerable to extirpation in Georgia. It is listed as Threatened by the State of Georgia. About 120 populations have been observed since 2000 but only about 20 populations occur on state or federal conservation lands.
Georgia Aster was a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act from 1999 until 2014, when a Conservation Agreement was reached by a number of state and federal agencies, conservation groups, and private companies to protect this species throughout its range. It was then removed from the candidate list.
Use prescribed fire or mowing in winter or early spring to create or maintain sunny openings. Avoid broadcast use of herbicides. Plan right-of-way maintenance around flowering and fruting times. Monitor sites for exotic species invasion and eradicate where needed. Protect sites from conversion to pine plantations or other developments.
Brouillet, L., J.C. Semple, G.A. Allen, K.L. Chambers, S.D. Sundberg. 2006. Symphyotrichum georgianum species account. Flora of North America, Vol. 20. Oxford University Press, New York. http://beta.floranorthamerica.org/Symphyotrichum_georgianum
Chafin, L.G. 2007. Field guide to the rare plants of Georgia. State Botanical Garden of Georgia and University of Georgia Press, Athens.
Cronquist, A. 1980. Vascular flora of the southeastern United States, Vol. 1, Asteraceae. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
GADNR. 2020. Element occurrence records for Symphyotrichum georgianum. Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Social Circle, Georgia.
Gustafson, D.J., J.M. Cruse-Sanders, K. Bucalo, H. Alley, M. Kunz, M.L. Alexander, V. Vankus and M. Duplantier. 2016. Survey of genetic diversity and seed germination rates of the southeastern endemic Symphyotrichum georgianum (Alexander) G.L. Nesom (Asteraceae) from large and small populations. Journal of Torrey Botanical Society 143(3): 274-284.
NatureServe. 2020. Symphyotrichum georgianum species account. NatureServe Explorer. Arlington, Virginia. https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.155848/Symphyotrichum_georgianum
USFS. 2014. Conservation partners save Georgia Aster from endangered status. U.S. Forest Service, Atlanta, Georgia. https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/conf/home/?cid=STELPRD3817221
USFWS. 2014. Candidate Conservation Agreement for Georgia Aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Athens, Georgia. https://www.fws.gov/athens/pdf/CCA%20GA%20Aster.pdf
USFWS. 2014. Conservation efforts help keep Georgia Aster off endangered species list. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Asheville, North Carolina. https://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ID=84B290E3-CD7B-0D5B-81E7C30BA3356455
USFWS. 2014. Georgia Aster fact sheet. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Athens, GA. www.fws.gov › athens › pdf › Georgia_aster_fact_sheet
Weakley, A.S. 2015. Flora of the southern and mid-Atlantic States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm
Linda G. Chafin
L.Chafin, Sep. 2008: original account
D.Weiler, Feb. 2010: added pictures
Z. Abouhamdan, April 2016: removed broken link
L. Chafin, May 2020: updated original account.