Symphyotrichum racemosum perennial 0.4-1.5 m tall; stems usually colonial from long rhizomes, plant appearing rather delicate.
Leaves alternate, stalkless (sessile), linear, to 11 cm long, 1 cm wide, branch leaves becoming much smaller (no basal lvs); branches widely spreading, small bract-like leaves of flower stalks linear, numerous, (smaller than those of A. Pilosus, larger than those of A. Ericoides.
Flowers: rays 15-30, white, 3-6 mm long, disk flowers initially yellow, becoming red in age, flower heads small, base 2.5-3.5 mm, basal bracts overlapping, with green tip, heads often arrayed along one side of a branch; blooming Sept.-Oct. Flowers offer nectar, pollinated by honey bees (Apis mellifera), bumble bees (Bombus sp.), vespid wasps, moths, butterflies, and flies. Pollinators visit only yellow flowers. It is hypothesized that older red flowers are retained to increase floral display for pollinators at a distance. Insects are insensitive to red color of older, pollinated flowers (Niesenbaum et al. 1999). Generally blooming early in season (personal observation, M. Gargiullo).
Fruit dry, 1-seeded, achene, with tuft of hairs (pappus), wind dispersed into winter, seeds eaten by songbirds and small mammals (Martin et al. 1951).
Wetland status: FAC.
Frequency in NYC: Occasional.
Habitat: Moist, open areas, meadows (Greller et al. 1991).
Notes: Leaves eaten by rabbits (Martin et al. 1951). Host to larvae of the pearly crescent butterfly, Phycoides tharos (Nymphalidae), (Tallamy 2003; Pyle 1981).