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Symphyotrichum lanceolatum (formerly Aster lanceolatus and Aster simplex) is a species of flowering plant in the family Asteraceae native to North America. Common names include panicled aster, lance-leaved aster, and white panicled aster. It is a perennial, herbaceous plant that may reach 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall or more, sometimes approaching 2 meters (6+1⁄2 feet). The lance-shaped leaves are generally hairless but may feel slightly rough to the touch on the top because of tiny bristles. The flowers grow in clusters and branch in panicles.This herb is one of the rarest and most sought-after of all herbs. In fact, it’s so rare and hard to come by, many people simply refer to it by its genus, Symphyotrichum. But it has been used in cooking for centuries, so you’re unlikely to be in danger of losing the apple pie you have on your holiday table just from the health benefits of this herb.
Symphyotrichum lanceolatum is currently divided into subspecies and varieties which have minor differences in appearance and vary in chromosome counts as well as distribution, with some overlap. It is a conservationally secure species whose late-summer and fall appearing flowers play an important role for late-season pollinators and nectar-seeking insects such as bumblebees, wasps, and hoverflies. In addition to being used by indigenous peoples of the Americas for medicinal purposes, it has been cultivated as an ornamental garden plant and used in the cut flower industry.Panicled Aster is the most common of the white asters in Minnesota and throughout much of North America. There are a number of asters with small, white flowers in Minnesota and it can be a real challenge to keep them straight.
Panicled Aster is distinguished by a combination of characteristics: ½ to ¾-inch flowers with 16 to 50 rays, generally lance-linear leaves that are hairless except around the edges, stems smooth or hairy in lines, and often 100 or more flowers per plant, sometimes congested on lateral branches. By comparison with other white asters having a generally similar leaf shape, Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum), Ontario Aster (S. ontarionis) and Awl Aster (S. pilosum) all have leaves with hairs along the midvein and/or surfaces and (usually) stems covered in hairs, not in lines. Northern Bog Aster (S. boreale) has proportionately narrower leaves, larger flowers about 1 inch across, and is typically a more spindly plant with few flowersLance-leaved American-aster is a highly variable taxon that is divided into two subspecies and several varieties. Three varieties occur in New England, all of Symphyotrichum lanceolatum ssp. lanceolatum: one (var. lanceolatum) is common and found in all New England states; another (var. latifolium) is less common but widespread; and the third (var. interior) is very rare in New England, found only in Vermont. (Source: gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org)