Upland White Goldenrod

Media
White upland aster goldenrod inflorescence in a prairie
Scientific Name
Solidago ptermicoides (formerly Aster ptarmicoides)
Family
Asteraceae (daisies, sunflowers)
Description

Upland white goldenrod looks like an aster, with its flowerheads of white petal-like ray florets and pale yellowish disc florets. There are one to several upright stems arising from the short-branching roots. Perennial.

Most leaves are basal or low on the stems; blades to about 8 inches long and ½ inch wide, rather thick and stiff, long-tapered to the base, short-stemmed or lacking a stem. toothless or sometimes with a few widely spaced teeth. Middle and upper stem leaves to about 3 inches long and very narrow.

The flowerheads are arranged singly or in small clusters at tips of the plant, altogether forming a shallowly rounded or flat-topped cluster. There are 10–25 ray florets. The disc florets appear yellowish because of the protruding yellow stamens; the corollas (fused petals) are actually white. Blooms July–September.

Similar species: Upland white goldenrod differs from all other asters and goldenrods in the state in having both ray and disc florets with the corollas (the trumpet-shaped, fused petals) white.

Common Name Synonyms
White Upland Aster
Sneezewort Aster
Prairie Aster
White Flat-Top Goldenrod
Size

Height: to 20 inches.

Where To Find

Scattered in the Ozark and Ozark Border divisions.

Occurs in glades, blufftops, upland prairies, pastures, railroads, and roadsides.

Native Missouri wildflower.

With its white, petal-like ray flowers and pale disc florets, upland white goldenrod is truly the oddball of the goldenrods: it looks much more like a white-flowered aster. It used to be considered an aster, but because it hybridizes with goldenrods and not with asters, its true genetic relationship is clear. Its change in taxonomic status is one reason there are so many different common names for this plant.

In addition to Aster ptarmicoides, another scientific name that has been used for this species is Oligoneuron album.

Note also that all of Missouri's "real asters" are no longer in genus Aster, either. Botanists have concluded that our New World asters are different enough (genetically) from the asters in the Old World that they should be separated from them. Therefore, all our native asters have been placed in separate genera. In Missouri, most of these are now in genus Symphyotrichum. The only true aster (in genus Aster) that grows wild in Missouri is a native of east Asia that escapes from gardens.

The attractive clusters of flowers that appear in late summer make this a good native wildflower for naturalizing in dry locations.

The ancient creation stories of many human cultures usually say something about the Earth's amazing diversity of plants and animals, and sometimes these stories depict the early process of naming the many organisms. Our modern reclassification and renaming of this plant (and many others) is, in an odd way, a continuation of those narratives.

Goldfinches eat the seed of this native wildflower.

Numerous insects visit the flowerheads for nectar, pollen, or both. Gall-forming wasps, aphids, and other insects may drink the sap or eat the stem or flowerhead base tissues. As with other extravagantly blooming composites of grasslands, the plant can become a mini-ecosystem in itself, as spiders, ambush bugs, and other predators lie in wait for unlucky insects to come near enough to capture.

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About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!