Sunday, October 9, 2011

Georgia Plants by Name

I am enjoying the blooms of my Georgia Aster this week - the large purple flowers have escaped the notice of the local deer and are creating a beautiful display on the side yard.  Georgia Aster is now called Symphyotrichum georgianum, a mouthful of a name.  Named for being found in Georgia, it is also found in several other southeastern states.

Symphyotrichum georgianum

I know very few people that have not fallen in love with this plant the moment they saw it.  It has larger flowers than most asters, and it's particular shade of purple is especially nice.  In addition, the centers of the flower turn dark purple with age, while most asters retain a yellow center.  The darkened center comes from the opening of the disk flowers - the buds of the disk flowers are pale when they are closed.  You can see the difference in the picture below.  Compare that to the center of the flowers in the picture above.

Georgia Aster with unopened disk flowers

You can also compare the difference in the disk flowers with other asters in the picture below - that picture shows a Georgia Aster flower above a flower of Aster patens (Symphyotrichum patens). They look nice together and grow naturally in the same areas.

Georgia Aster (top and right) with Aster patens

This is a flower worth waiting for!  I think that the rough texture of the leaves of both types of asters helps keep them safe from the deer.  Asters with more tender foliage are not so lucky.

The name of this plant got me to thinking about what other plants might share the trait of having the species name (in botanical names the first name is the genus and the second name is the species) reflect the fact that they were found in Georgia.  Luckily the search capability in the USDA Plants Database let's me easily look that up.  Here is what I found:

Georgia Aster: Symphyotrichum georgianum
Georgia savory: Clinopodium georgianum
Georgia oak: Quercus georgiana
Georgia false indigo: Amorpha georgiana
Georgia rockcress: Arabis georgiana
Georgia frostweed: Helianthemum georgianum
Georgia quillwort: Isoetes georgiana
Georgia rush: Juncus georgianus
Georgia beargrass: Nolina georgiana
Georgia bulrush: Scirpus georgianus
Slenderfruit nutrush: Scleria georgiana
Smallflower phacelia: Phacelia dubia var. georgiana
Ironweed hybrid: Vernonia ×georgiana

Clinopodium georgianum

Of all these plants, I grow only the first three.  Georgia Savory (Clinopodium georgianum) is a plant that is blooming now as well.  It is considered a small shrub and grows well in sunny, dry conditions (not unlike Georgia Aster).  It has tiny pink flowers and aromatic foliage.

Georgia Oak (Quercus georgiana) grows in a few counties in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.  It is found naturally around Stone Mountain, GA but seems happy to be relocated elsewhere. For a while the Georgia Forestry Commission grew it as part of their seedling program.  We handed out seedlings at my local elementary school for Arbor Day one year ... so hopefully dozens and dozens of them are now growing in the area around me.  I do have one in my yard from that event.  It is a member of the red oak group, so the petite lobed leaves have tiny bristle tips and it has pretty good fall color.

Some plants have lost their original "Georgia" name as they were consolidated with other species: Crataegus georgiana (a Hawthorn) is now considered Crataegus pruinosa, and Hymenocallis georgiana (Spider lily) is now Hymenocallis caroliniana.

I am proud of these "homegrown" plants and look forward to discovering more of them as time goes by.


  1. What a sweet looking aster! I've really fallen in love with asters this fall, that splash of purple or blue looks so good next to all the fall yellows along the roadsides.

  2. What a great list of Georgia plants. I don't there's any with a Minnesotiensis or Minnestotiana :)

  3. Here, I found one (and only one): Lichinella minnesotensis.

    There was another one, but they changed the name to Wisconsin (Rubus minnesotanus is now Rubus wisconsinensis)!

  4. Who knew! I'm going to look them both up right now.