I love all the native asters with their crazy growth and light blue, purple or white flowers, but this Wildflower Wednesday, sponsored by Gail of Clay and Limestone, I want to highlight Symphyotrichum drummondii var. drummondii (Lindl.), Drummond’s aster (synonyms: Aster drummondii, Aster sagittifolius var. drummondii).
Drummond’s aster is found in many states throughout the U.S. In Oklahoma, it has been identified in several counties, and I can attest it runs wild in the dappled shade of the woods on my land which is in Logan County.
I also have it planted in several places within the wilder parts of the garden. Oh heck, who am I kidding? Much of my garden is wildish especially in the fall when the asters bloom. According to the Missouri Native Plants page, this aster is “similar to other blue-flowered asters but can be identified by its pubescent stems, winged leaf petioles, scabrous adaxial leaf surfaces, and bluish ray flowers.” To see what they mean by all that great botany language, just trip on over to their page where they have great identification photos. I, on the other hand, just want to show the pretty inflorescence and ray flowers (i.e., blooms).
So how do native plants like these get their names? In the case of our aster, it is named after a famous naturalist and plant collector, Thomas Drummond, who was Scottish and born in 1793 in Inverarity, Angus Parish or County. He had an older brother, James, who also became a botanist and gardener. Drummond was a member of two different expeditions to North America, the first in the Arctic. In the second, he traveled throughout Texas and the southern United States including Missouri. (I wonder why he didn’t come to Oklahoma?) In spite of being ill with cholera and diarrhea, he did extensive collecting throughout Texas and his 750 species of plants and 150 specimens of birds was studied and shown in many museums. He hoped to return to Texas, but died in Havana, Cuba while collecting there. (S. W. Geiser, Naturalists of the Frontier [Dallas: Southern Methodist University, 1937; 2d ed. 1948] found on the Texas State Historical Association site.) Drummond is also famous for his discovery of many mosses.
What amazes me about early naturalists was their ability to get so much done in their short lives (Drummond was only 45 when he passed) and how dedicated they were to science. One of the best books I’ve read about naturalists and plant collectors is The Brother Gardeners: A Generation of Gentlemen Naturalists and the Birth of an Obsession (Vintage), by Andrea Wulf. It is the story of many of the early plant hunters, and it reads like a novel, but is filled with interesting facts.
But, back to the aster. Was it named for Drummond, or did he find it on his travels? In my research, it appears the aster named in his honor, but I’m not sure if he collected seeds from it or not. So many plants are named after Drummond, a quick search yields too numerous results to list here. He did collect seeds from Phlox drummondii and sent them to Great Britain.
According to Flora of America, S. drummondii is sometimes confused “with S. urophyllum, a usually white-rayed species with erect array branches.” There is also a separate variation called S. drummondii var. Texanum.
Honestly, all that matters to me is it is easy to grow. It spreads a bit and fills in the blank spaces in the Autumn garden.