The Aster Disaster

I like Asters. Along with Goldenrods, they make my favorite fall garden combination. When it comes to Asters, however, I have been botanically incorrect for years. Thanks to the taxonomists, Asters aren’t really Asters anymore (with a few exceptions).

No, now  they are Doellingerias, Eurybias, and (for most North American Asters) Symphyotrichums. A couple have even become Solidagos!

Was this really necessary? Aster is a very appropriate name for Asters: a simple name for a simple flower. If the taxonomists had to come up with new names, couldn’t they at least have come up with new names that were equally easy to remember and pronounce? You would think that this would be the sort of thing that would be regulated by the USDA.

Aster – no, sorry, Symphyotrichum shortii (Short’s Aster)

But no. I can only say that taxonomists are the natural enemies of gardeners. Or at least a natural irritant.

Like many people, including most of the plant retailers I’m aware of, I have followed a strategy of simply ignoring the new names. Unfortunately, if you ignore the taxonomists, they do not go away. And they have all kinds of justifications for why the renaming and reshuffling was necessary. Hardly anyone understands those justifications, but we are supposed to accept them because they are Scientific. I sometimes suspect that the taxonomists are running a racket, constantly coming up with reasons for changing the names of familiar and well-loved plants and in the process justifying the continued employment of taxonomists.

Despite my misgivings, I’ve decided it’s time to hoist the white flag of surrender. From now on, I will use the correct botanical names. But I won’t like it. And damn it, the common names stay the same, you hear me?

18 Comments on “The Aster Disaster”

  1. I’m right with you on this one, it’s definitely a pet peeve of mine. We plant geeks are supposed to use latin names when referring to a plant since one person’s Cutlleaf Coneflower is another person’s Green Headed Coneflower, but changing taxonomic names isn’t exactly helpful either. The one that’s most annoying to me is some of the Eupatoriums becoming Eutrochiums.

  2. A fine rant if ever there was one.

    On the topic of words changing, I’m still getting over everyone calling noodles ‘pasta’ and any headache a ‘migraine’. And how anyone under 35 says ‘no problem’ instead of ‘you’re welcome’. And…and…

  3. I agree re the shuffling of names. Will eventually move over to use the new parlance, but the common name will remain. They may not be Asters any more, but they will always be asters… And beautiful plants they are too. Still watching the buds in our garden, waiting for them to break.

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